You Are Stronger Than You Think

This was me after my assessment and selection to the SFAB. I got through a lot more than I thought I was capable of back then, too.

Those were the words my daughter left me with on Friday afternoon as I ended our call before I went on post to attend my first official week of Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS). I had expressed to her some anxiety and a little bit of fear about some of the physical aspects of the training I was about to undertake. Later that day, I was to take the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) which is a newly-implemented fitness test that currently has a high failure rate. I had taken one three weeks prior, but I was unable to complete one primary event (the leg-tuck) and had to substitute it with a 2-minute plank (which I was able to complete).

I had set my goal on improving each of the six areas of the ACFT which include:

  • Repetition Strength Deadlift (three deadlifts)
  • Standing Power Throw (throw a 10 lbs medicine ball behind you)
  • Arm Extension Push-Up
  • 250-Meter Sprint, Drag, Carry
  • Leg Tuck
  • The 2-mile Run

My results last time were good enough to pass:

  • 140 lbs deadlift
  • 7.2m standing power throw
  • 20 arm extension push-ups
  • 2:30 250m sprint-drag-carry
  • 0 leg tucks, but successful 2-minute plank
  • 19:47 2-mile run

Those were good, but personally, not good enough. I wanted to not only be able to show improvement through my efforts between drills, but I wanted to push myself to improve for personal reasons. I never like passing any sort of assessment with bare minimums; I want to have some wiggle room just in case I’m not able to perform at my best, I know I can still pass. So, I put in the work, and the following were my results:

  • 180 lbs deadlift
  • 8.5m standing power throw
  • 26 arm extension push-ups
  • 2:12 250m sprint-drag-carry
  • 4 leg tucks
  • 19:17 2-mile run

These are good improvements, but I’m setting a goal for myself to reach the next level of success. There are three levels of testing: Moderate, Significant, and Heavy. As a Warrant Officer, we are required to pass the ACFT at the Moderate, or “Gold” standard which is:

  • 140 lbs deadlift
  • 4.5m standing power throw
  • 10 extension push-ups
  • 3:00 250m sprint-drag-carry
  • 1 leg tuck
  • 21:00 2-mile run

The Significant standard is:

  • 180 lbs deadlift
  • 6.5m standing power throw
  • 20 extension push-ups
  • 2:30 250m sprint-drag-carry
  • 3 leg tucks
  • 19:00 2-mile run

Comparing my results against the Significant standard, I completed everything go Significant standard except for the run. For me to get there, I just needed to run a little faster. It is kind of painful knowing I missed making the significant standard by 17 seconds. 17 seconds is what seperated me from making significant standard across the board.

However, like anything, I have a goal, and I have a process to get me there. I will continue to train and push myself to attain the results I want. Will I ever make it to Heavy standard? Here’s what it takes for the Heavy standard:

  • 200 lbs deadlift
  • 8m standing power throw
  • 30 extension push-ups
  • 2:10 250m sprint-drag-carry
  • 5 leg tucks
  • 18:00 2-mile run

I think that getting the deadlift will be easy. My workouts will have me at 200 lbs deadlifts within the week, so doing a three-lift repetition for the test when I do 5 lift repetitions will be easy. I already can meet the standing power throw, and getting to 30 push-ups shouldn’t be problematic. The 2:10 sprint-drag-carry is a goal I’m already very close to, and with some more High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), I should be able to meet that standard. I’m only 1 leg tuck away from meeting the 5 leg tucks standard, and I think I will be able to get there and beyond soon enough. The most challenging of the six events for me will be the 2-mile run in 18 minutes. I have short legs, and running has never been my forte. However, I’ve actually run as fast as 16:47 in my two-mile runs in the past, but not after a smoke session like the ACFT.

The ACFT, unlike the older Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) is an endurance event that tests not only our physical capabilities and strength, but also our ability to balance our effort between the six events. If I smoke myself on the deadlifts to get a high score, that could detrimentally effect my ability to complete the sprint-drag-carry and the 2-mile run later in the test.

So, how does my daughter come into play with my experience this past friday with the ACFT? It’s because her words echoed to me throughout the entire text period. Every time I had some sort of doubt in myself or my abilities, I heard her saying, “You’re stronger than you think you are. You’ve got this.” Every time I heard those words, I pushed harder. I didn’t want to let her down, and I also needed to take her words to heart. It’s easy to slow down on a run when you’re feeling tired, but her words made me analyze how I was feeling. Am I out of breath? No; just breathing hard. Are my legs smoked? A little, but they aren’t sore or hurting. Can I push a little harder? Probably; let’s do this!

I challenge anyone reading this to consider that you are stronger than you think you are. There is more inside you than you likely are willing to admit, or want to admit. It’s easy to slow down or to stop, but if you slow down and aren’t breathing hard or aren’t exerting yourself during exercise, are you realling going to get the results you’re after? My dad always used to say if you’re going to do something, do it right the first time. That can apply to exercise: put in the work, and make it good, solid work. You will never see the results you’re after unless you push yourself, and the strength within you is greater than you think.

Achievement Unlocked: Shirt Off in Public

Image-1 (8)
I cropped my nipples out to keep from offending the nipple police.

I know what you’re thinking: “Nobody wants to see an old guy with his shirt off in public.” Well, let me allay your fears: it wasn’t at a public event or concert or anything. It was just on the sidewalk across the street from my house next to the lake/pond I run around. I had to get the sweat-soaked shirt off of me after an unusually hot run. It felt SO GOOD to get that shirt off. First, because it immediately allowed me to start cooling off, and second, because I felt confident enough with my body to allow people to see it without feeling self-conscious about it.

I know. I KNOW. Who cares about what other people think, right? Well, it’s not about that. I really don’t care what they think, but I care about how other people are affected by me. There’s a difference. I don’t want to offend or otherwise make people uncomfortable with me showing some skin.

People seem to be more uncomfortable with overweight people. I don’t know why that is; it could be because they’re shallow (they don’t like to see people who aren’t “Beautiful” in their eyes), or it’s because the bigger you are, the easier it is to take notice. Perhaps it’s their not wanting to face what they look like with a shirt off. Either way, I just don’t want to make people uncomfortable when they see me without a shirt on. That’s not a concern anymore (I think).

There were probably a half dozen people at the lake fishing when I walked a lap around it with no shirt on, and nobody seemed to take notice or be affected by it. And that’s good. Well, there was one grandma that kept whistling at me (sexual harassment!) but she does that even when I have my shirt on, so I’m used to it.