Tag Archives: PRT

Joy in Mudville: The Comeback

“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” Satchel Paige

“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something” Nolan Ryan

Baseball is more like life than any sport it is a game that requires stamina and gives players who continue to produce a chance to keep playing longer than most other sports, even players that are not super stars.  But sometimes life like baseball presents every person situations where it takes everything that you have to keep yourself in the game.

The military is something like sports because in order to remain viable in the military you have to remain physically fit and in an age where the military is shrinking there is little grace given to the old veterans.  I am not going to recount most of my post-Iraq experience battling PTSD as well as a number of nagging physical injuries to my shoulders, left elbow, right knee and right ankle.  Neither my brain nor my body was responding the way I thought that they should and for the first time I discovered the connection between the two.  Jeff Passan wrote concerning ball players, particularly in light of the recent plight of Yankees great Jorge Posada and his battle with age and deteriorating performance “It’s a battle with the brain, with knowing and feeling you belong despite your body’s revolt. The two work symbiotically, and once one turns, it’s difficult to keep the other from following.”

That was true for me for the first time in over 25 years in the military.  I have shared my struggle with my weight recently but another hurdle that I faced was trying to get my head back in the game regarding my physical fitness.  I felt my injuries; they were nagging and took forever to heal. Gone were the days of taking a day or two off and then going back into my usual fitness regime.  I was old and I felt like it. Mickey Mantle said “I always loved the game, but when my legs weren’t hurting it was a lot easier to love.” It wasn’t until the spring of 2010 that my mind began to get back into the game and I began to test my body in ways that I hadn’t since Iraq.  I began to get back in physical shape and though my weight kept me from getting off the fat boy program my score of 265 for the physical fitness test portion was rated as “high excellent” not quiet the top level but not bad for someone on the comeback trail. I was just one pushup shy of the outstanding score and I stopped because I thought I had the number that I needed, I had more in me but quit.  As a result the spring of 2010 went down as my second failure.  In the Navy if you fail three times in 4 years you can be processed for administrative separation. For me this would have meant being forced to retire despite having been selected for promotion to Commander.  It would have been humiliating.

When I reported to my new command it became my goal to not only be in weight standards but to continue to improve my physical performance.  I had to. A failure on either portion would have probably meant the end of my career.  I had to dig deep and as the weight came off my physical performance became better and I began to feel like a whole person again. Even so as the time neared for the Physical Fitness Assessment I was concerned I could not take any chances on my weight and likewise could not do badly on the physical readiness test.  Nolan Ryan was right. I had to prove something and I wanted to prove something and I was willing to dig deep to do it.

As I mentioned before I came in 6 pounds below my maximum weight.  This afternoon I took the physical readiness test with about a dozen officers and sailors from the hospital.  As at many commands people wait until the last day to take the test so attendance today was light.  Another 700 or so will take their PRT in the coming days.

The weather this afternoon was wonderful. I have taken the PRT and the Marine PFT at Camp LeJeune in May before. Usually the weather is already uncomfortably warm and humid even in the morning. I had planned on doing the 0630 time because of this but I had been up late counseling a former shipmate so I elected to go in to work at my normal time and take my chances that the weather would cooperate in the afternoon.  When the time came the temperature was about 75 degrees with a nice breeze and bearable humidity.  I felt good and knew that I was going to do very well; the question would be cracking the “outstanding” barrier, something I had not done since shortly after my return from Iraq when despite injuries I pushed myself to make the grade. After than the injuries owned me and I went through several tests where I simply did okay, not failing but nothing to write home about.

We lined up and the first exercise was sit ups or crunches.  I have always done well in this event but over the past few years have really gotten my technique down.  In 2 minutes I did 101, well above the 85 that I needed for the highest score of 100 points.  I could have done more as I stopped about 15 seconds before the end of the time but you don’t get extra credit.  The next even was the pushup.  When I was young I struggled with pushups.  It really was a mental thing. Back then when I was 23 the Army required 65 pushups for the maximum score. Now at the age of 51 I still need 64 for the maximum score. I did 65 and again it came down to technique. I have worked to perfect my pushups to keep the best form using the most compact movements and breathing on every rep to get the most I can in 2 minutes.  Bad form ensures fewer pushups can be performed and if you don’t breathe you tend to wear out sooner and often not be able to go much more than a minute.  Despite exceeding the maximum score I don’t think that I am really in my best shape and I will continue to work.  Knowing that I had blown out the first two events all that was left was the 1.5 mile run.  For me the 1.5 mile run is too short. I tend not even to get into a good stride and have my breathing right until the 1 mile point, so I have always liked the Army 2 mile and Marine 3 mile runs better than the Navy variant and before Iraq would run 5-8 miles every time I went out.  If I really want to blow the Navy run out I have to turn on the afterburners. If I do this when I am in stellar shape I can nail the run in 9.45 to 10.45 minutes.  With the injuries I had not did the run since the spring of 2009 instead doing the elliptical machine or stationary bike.  That was not so much because I couldn’t do the run but it was a mental thing, I no longer believed that I could.   I finally realized that I could and today I ran the run in 12.31.  I decided that I didn’t need to push too hard. I knew the number of points and run time that I needed to get them. I was well under that time but well below what I know that I can do. Next time I will do better.

This was a victory for me but I cannot rest. I avoided the failure that would have ended my career but I cannot fail again.  There is nothing like living on the brink to provide a little extra motivation.  But as Satchel Paige said “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Military, philosophy, US Navy

PT and Bumping into Old Friends at Camp Swampy and Getting Carded at Applebee’s

The Main Gate at Camp Swampy

One nickname that Camp LeJeune North Carolina bears is “Camp Swampy.” This is because of the marsh like conditions of some of the base, the normally abundant rainfall and the propensity of said rainfall to accumulate wherever it falls. It is somewhat like the Tidewater, a polite name for “swamp” is in Virginia, only with more rain and in the spring and summer the humidity, mosquitoes and other vermin that love the conditions.  However, because it is a Marine Corps base one can find people doing PT at any time of the day or night in a variety of forms.  Of course the Marines at Camp LeJeune PT in any weather and Chaplains assigned here, even those with the Navy are kind of expected to do the same. Of course each Chaplain does so within his or her physical constraints. Despite being 50 years old I am still in pretty good shape and have the psychological need to try to keep up with people 20 to 30 years my junior so when I do my PT I am serious about it.  In fact when I was stationed with Navy EOD I did so well on the physical readiness test that an EOD tech asked my assistant Nelson Lebron “what kind of ‘roids is the Chaplain on?”  I found this funny since I don’t do this but I can tell you at the age of 50 and being subject to all sorts of minor bumps, dings and nagging injuries I can understand why some professional athletes would use substances such as HGH, but like the rest of the Navy-Marine Corps team I survive on “Vitamin M” or as it is commonly known to laypersons as 800 mg Motrin.

My normal or abnormal regimen is to do what I call “distance interval training.” Interval training usually entails combining some kind of cardio with exercises that work various muscle groups interspersed throughout. I first did interval type training in high school football practice, back then we called them “grass drills” where we ran in place and whenever the coach blew his whistle we would drop for pushups, sit-ups, flutter kicks or any other exercise that could put us on the ground.  I saw a variation with the Marines early in my Navy career that entailed sprinting and then dropping for whatever kind of punishment the leader determined.  Back then I preferred to run long distances up to 20 miles in training for half-marathons and marathons.

However a series of nagging overuse injuries took me down to 5-8 miles a run before I went to Iraq. In Iraq I picked up a few more injuries and it took me a while to recover so after I was assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth I built my runs back up to 3-5 miles but I didn’t find that this was working for me anymore. So I went back to something that I hadn’t done since high school, interval training but I didn’t want to give up running.  I devised a plan that works for me and what I need it to accomplish.  I am now adding the P90X fitness program to fit in on alternate days.

Now I run about 3 miles but every 100-200 yards I drop for a set of 15-25 pushups get up and then do one of 5 different sets of abdominal exercises, 15-30 regular crunches, 40 oblique’s, 15-20 crunches with legs up at a 90 degree angle, 60-100 bicycle crunches and 50-100 flutter kicks with sets of pushups between each of them.

With Paul Rumery in Sicily, he has the hair

It has taken me a while to get settled at Camp LeJeune and begin to plan safe routes to run this and I am just getting back into the groove. Today I went out at lunch amid threatening rain. About a third of the way into the workout the rain came down and I continued to run, the rain was actually quite refreshing and by the two third point of the run I was soaked, my orange Baltimore Orioles t-shirt and gray running shorts must have weighed 5-6 pounds.  As I got up from a set of crunches I wiped off my sunglasses, no I didn’t need them I just like to look cool and as I wiped them off on my previously mentioned soaked Orioles t-shirt I started to run and a car pulled alongside where I was running, the window rolled down and I heard a familiar voice, LCDR Paul Rumery, the Chaplain who had relieved me on USS Hue City in 2003 and who had taken me to dinner the last time I was in Sicily with EOD called out “Hey Steve wild man I knew that it had to be you!” I pulled up and went over to the car, we had a brief talk. Paul had a brand new Chaplain with him who he told that I was a “wild man.” Paul let me know that he didn’t know that I was aboard Camp LeJeune and said that we needed to get together.  It was good to see him and I hope that we do get together soon. I picked up the run again and took it back in to the hospital where my now squishy running shoes and waterlogged clothing dripped of my mud stained body. A Marine Staff Sergeant came up to me and said that I had leaves on the back of my head. I laughed, said “I’m not surprised” and commented “if it ain’t raining we ain’t training.” The Staff Sergeant asked about my workout and was suitably impressed. I then ran into a Corpsman who had been assigned with me at 3rd Battalion 8th Marines back in 2000-2001.  He and I talked for a while. It’s funny what a small world it is when you are stationed in a place like Camp LeJeune.

After work I stopped by the local Applebee’s for a beer and a burger and I was carded by the server. I thanked the server who told me that they and to card anyone that looked under 30 and when he saw my ID and age he was surprised. I must say that since there are so many Marines and Sailors here it is not uncommon to be carded and since I don’t dress my age I can see why I get carded. I must say that it appeals to my vanity.  I guess part of this must be due to good genes as well. Whatever it is I will take it.

Tomorrow I will drive up to Virginia as I have a specialty appointment and assessment to figure out what might be causing my auditory processing disorder.  I haven’t understood speech well since returning from Iraq and the additional Tinnitus is at times deafening.  Hopefully they will figure it out and find something that will make it better.

So anyway, until tomorrow….

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under Military, sports and life

PRT’s PFA’s PFT’s APFT’s APRT’s and Whatever Else We Can Call a PT Test

crunches

Today was my time to take my Physical Readiness Test for the Navy.  I actually think that we call it a PFA or Physical Fitness Assessment, but nonetheless it is what in the old days we simply called a “PT Test.”  I have to say that I think that I did okay, despite a conscious decision not to push myself too hard and “strive for mediocrity” for the first time in my Navy career.  You will of course see that I had good reasons for this and that I wasn’t slacking too bad all things considered.

Now I have been doing PT tests  in one way shape or form for almost 28 years.   I started them back when I enlisted in the National Guard and concurrently began Army ROTC at UCLA back in 1981.  Back then the PT test was known as the Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.  It consisted then of push ups, sit ups and a 2 mile run and remained that way through my entire Army career.  As a young guy  I was good at the 2 mile run and killed the sit ups. Unfortunately the Army did and still does sit ups the worst way imaginable for your lower back.  You go all the way up and down and keep your hands behind your neck.   In the Army I usually did pretty good on the PT test but initially struggled with push ups.  I had not yet learned the importance of good form and was always psych’d out by them. Thus my scores for the push ups while satisfactory always dragged my overall score down. I finally started getting where I could just about reach the maximum for my age when the Army renamed the test and increased the numbers required to get the maximum score.  The new name was the Army Physical Readiness Test or APRT and the push up numbers went way up from 67 to I think it was 88 for the maximum score.  That sucked, I finally got where I could achieve the maximum and they raised the bar.  So for the rest of my Army career I pretty much resigned myself to the lower score despite doing what was previously the maximum number of push ups.

Then after 17 1/2 years in the Army I went over to the Navy.  I had to do the PRT, or the Physical Readiness Test.  The Navy test is similar to the Army but different.  I don’t know what the Army does now, except that they still do the push ups, sit ups and 2 mile run.  The Navy does push ups, curl ups and a mile and a half run.  The Navy numbers even at my age of 49 to get a “Outstanding” score are more than anything I had to do at a younger age in the Army.  The one and a half mile run is harder for me than the 2 mile run.  I am a distance runner.  When I am healthy, which I really have  not been since Iraq I run 5-8 miles.  Now I’m doing 3-4, not bad, but not what I want.  Just a few years ago I was doing half-marathons.  So a mile and a half to me is a sprint.  To get the maximum score I need to light the afterburners.  However after a lot of years of doing these things I have learned all about form and the nuances of how to do well, even the run, which when I am not injured a I can do in 10:00 to 10:00.  Not bad for an old guy.  When I was  at  EOD Group Two before I went to Iraq my RP2, Nelson Lebron and I smoked the test.  Afterward one of the EOD techs kiddingly asked Nelson “Dude, what kind of ‘roids is the chaplain on?”  The fact is that I love doing well and beating the young guys.  It has become a personal challenge.  Part of this is because I’m not young, and the other is I remember so many Army Chaplains who were physical wrecks who looked bad in uniform and had really poor physical conditioning.  Now there were fit chaplains but there were enough of the others to make the Corps look bad.  As a professional officer as well as a priest, I am 100% officer and 100% priest.  Kind of  a hypostatic union kind of thing going on here.

Now in addition to the Navy I have served two Fleet Marine Force tours and have my Fleet Marine Force Officer Qualification pin.  Part of the joy of serving with the Marines as a Navy Officer is getting to do their physical fitness test as an option to the Navy.  The Marines use pull ups instead of push ups, curl ups and a 3 mile run.  The run is actually my favorite of the three services.  My first mile is my warm up.  I hit my stride in the second and smoke the third.  I had to work hard at the pull ups but got where I could do enough to pass the Marine PFT with a “Class One” score.  The Marines have three levels of passing, Class one, two and three.  The Marines have recently added a Combat Fitness Test with all sorts of really tough stuff that guys might have to do in combat.  It does not look fun.

DMZ PTPT on the Korean DMZ March 2001

The penalty for failing the PT test in the Army, Marines or Navy is tough.  It can stop promotion or even get one kicked out of the service.  Height and weight standards too are important.  You don’t want to be flagged as overweight.  If you fail the PT test or bust the weight or body fat you get to go on some form of remedial PT which is usually in addition to everything else that you have to do.  I am genetically undertall and I really have to watch this.

Today I had my Spring PRT or was we call them now the PFA.  The events haven’t changed but the name has been changed to protect the innocent.  As I said I have had a lot of nagging injuries returning from Iraq, coupled with my PTSD and insomnia made the past year or so pretty hard.  I came back from Iraq and continued to push myself and while getting my usual “Outstanding” score made my injuries worse.  Shoulder problems kept me from the push ups for the first time in my career.  I had mildly sprained my left ankle running last week.  So I decided today that I would simply shoot for an “Excellent” score.  The Deity Herself was with me this morning despite being dinged up. After I drank my 24 once cup of Southern Pecan coffee with a healthy dose of Splenda and French Vanilla creamer from “The Dancing Goat”  and an el cheapo chocolate donut I did 75 push ups in about a minute and a half and stopped, I knew I had 10 or 15 more in me but decided to strive for mediocrity.  The run I decided to set an 8 minute mile pace and not get too excited completing the run in 11:56.  This is the worst time I have ever did the run in since I joined the Navy.  However I finished 3rd of the 25 or so sailors doing the run.   In the fall I hope to be fully spun up and really ready to embarrass the young guys.  Until then I will celebrate tomorrow when I come off of duty with donuts, hot and fresh Krispy Kreme donuts with coffee.  Back to the ICU.

Peace and blessings, Steve+

Note: I have absolutely no idea what the Air Force does.  I think though that their PT test includes a round of golf, and time at the 19th hole.

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