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Set Small Goals and Win Big

Ash in the brush

Fourteen years ago, SFC Daniel Ash had the opportunity to participate in the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) event. Despite his best efforts, he failed. Frustrated by his performance, the Oregon Army National Guard Soldier was eager for another chance to earn the EIB. Ash finally got his chance to try again in July 2016.

The EIB event is a grueling, five-day course that tests Soldiers’ physical and mental strength. Soldiers are evaluated on everything from fitness skills to their land navigation, weapons systems, and medical aid skills. The final day of the course includes a 12-mile ruck march and a 100-meter “Objective Bull” course, where Soldiers must treat and stabilize a simulated casualty.

The EIB event always begins with the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which typically eliminates about half of the participants from the start. Soldiers must score at least 80 points (out of 100) in each event to move on.

Ash knew his sit-up and push-up scores were below the 80-point minimum. To improve his scores, he embarked on a three-month APFT improvement plan. He started small by focusing on form to ensure his push-up and sit-up form was correct. Then, he slowly increased the number of repetitions until he was doing about 120 push-ups and 240 sit-ups a day, three days a week. After three months, Ash had raised his APFT score from a 230 to a 290.

When asked about his training plan, Ash emphasized the importance of practicing the way you’ll be tested. The best way to improve your run, sit-up, or push-up score is to practice them. “You get better at running by running,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of proper form for running, push-ups, and sit-ups. He said he has seen Soldiers fail their APFT for improper form countless times.

Ash also knew if he was physically ready, he could focus more on the tasks he needed to accomplish. Instead of thinking about how tired he was during the 12-mile ruck, he would concentrate on the task at hand and push through to the finish.

More than 100 participants began the course in July alongside Ash. But only six completed the infantry event in the California heat—including Ash. He will now represent the Oregon National Guard in the upcoming Region 6 Best Warrior Competition in Washington state in May 2017.

Ash said change won’t happen overnight. But if you stick with it, you’ll see the results of your hard work like he did.

For Soldiers who may be struggling with their fitness, Ash recommends starting with small goals. For example, pick one thing you can improve upon every day, like doing one more push-up than you did yesterday. He also recommends trying to find a workout partner to help support and motivate you to stay focused on your goals.

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