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In the Guard Your Health infographics “How to Crush the APFT! 30/60/90 Days to Go!” you have a running program listed, but what do you recommend for personnel who will do one of the walk, bike, or swim events? I was trying to find an alternate event “crush” guide, but I didn’t have any luck finding one. Can you please post something for those of us who are oldish and broke?!

We are happy to provide ideas for you. At this time, Guard Your Health has not developed an alternate event training guide; however, that sounds like a great idea!

UPDATE: Guard Your Health now offers The Ultimate Alternate Aerobic APFT Improvement Guide: How to Crush the Swim, Bike, or Walk Event [PDF] for download.

As you may know, a Soldier with a permanent medical profile who cannot perform the 2-mile run can choose one of these Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) alternate aerobic events:

  • 800-yard swim
  • 6.2-mile stationary-cycle ergometer or bike
  • 2.5-mile walk

To determine how much time you have to complete these events, based on your gender and age, see this Alternate Aerobic Events table.

There are no points received when the running test is replaced with an alternate aerobic test. The Soldier will receive a GO (pass) or NO-GO (fail) mark on the DA Form 705.

To prep for your alternate event, we suggest the following tips.

Cycling

Depending on your age and gender you will need to complete the 6.2 mile bike ride within 24-34 minutes. You can work your way up to a 6.2 mile bike ride by cycling four to five times a week for 30-40 minutes. You can increase your speed by doing interval workouts – a series of low-to-high intensity workouts with periods of rest – two or three days per week. By pushing yourself with short periods of intensity, you force your body to quickly adapt and grow stronger. For example:

  • Ride at an easy pace for 5-10 minutes to warm up your legs and muscles.
  • Shift into a higher gear, or add resistance, and pedal at a slower, harder rate.
  • In the higher gear, ride hard for 15 minutes and then do 7 minutes of easy spinning before riding hard again for 15 minutes.
  • Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy spinning.

Cycling pros recommend these strategies for cycling faster and farther:

  • Maintain proper position on the bike.
  • Save your strength by riding at a moderate pace at first and build up to a faster pace.
  • Let your legs do all the work, keeping your upper body as still as possible.

Swimming

Depending on your age and gender, you will have between 20-25 minutes to swim the 800 yard requirement for the alternate APFT.  To build endurance, first determine your pool length. Standard community swimming pools are 25 yards so pushing off one wall and swimming to the other end is known as a 25 or one lap. In a standard pool, you would need to do 32 laps to meet the APFT requirement.

Make a splash with this interval workout:

  • Begin by warming up with 5-10 minutes of walking or riding a stationary bike.
  • Get into the pool (APFT standards won’t allow you to dive in) and slowly swim 12 laps. Take a 10-second break.
  • Swim 12 more laps, pushing yourself a little harder than before. Take a 20-second break.
  • Swim hard like you’re in a race for 8 laps. Take a 30-second break.
  • Swim 12 laps at a moderate pace. Take a 20-second break.
  • Slowly swim 12 laps and then exit the pool.
  • Cool down with the same exercises used for warming up.

If you’re a more advanced swimmer, go fast and furious for 12 laps instead of 8, no holding back. You can take a minute break every two laps if you need to.

Check out these tips from swim pros:

  • Keep your head down. Keep your head in the water in line with your body. It not only cuts down on drag, but also relieves strain on your neck.
  • Turn your feet into fins. Your legs should be fully extended, scissoring you through the water, while your feet remain flexible. This will help your feet snap at the downstroke of each kick, adding power and helping twist your torso along the way.
  • Make each breath count. Take a deep exhale before snagging a quick, full breath every six strokes by turning your head no more than 90 degrees out of the water.

Walking

Depending on your age and gender, you will have to complete the 2.5-mile walk within 34-41 minutes. You can increase your walking speed and stamina with these tips:

  • Mix up your walks by changing terrain. Try walking on a track, a trail, or a treadmill to switch it up.
  • If using a treadmill, increase the incline but leave the speed slow.
  • Aim to walk four to six times a week. If you’re a beginner, shoot for 20-30 minutes and work up to 45 minutes or an hour.
  • Bring your heart rate up. Find a pace in which you’re breathing hard and able to speak short sentences. Walk this pace for 30 minutes.
  • Once a week, set the timer and try a practice walk to test if you’re meeting your requirement time.

We also recommend with any workout, make sure you:

  • Choose the right shoes. Fit and flexibility are important.
  • Stretch! Stretching helps prevent injuries. Warm up before you work out and cool down afterwards. These five stretches will help you get started.
  • Fuel up. Eat healthy foods to keep your body powered during the workout. Experts recommend eating foods high in carbs but low in fiber before a workout such as toast, a bagel, or a banana, and protein after a workout such as eggs or lean meats.
  • Keep a bottle of water with you. You can get dehydrated pretty quickly as you lose 2-5% of your body weight every time you work out. Stay hydrated to keep your body primed and your blood flowing for maximum performance.

Good luck on your APFT!