When I was in Hawaii, the PT program had three categories: Regular, Incentive, and Exempt.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. PT (physical training) is the work out program intended to prepare you for the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test), which tend to happen four times a year or more, depending. The APFT has three events: 2 min of push-ups, 2 min of sit-ups, and a 2 mile run. Each event is worth 100 points and scores are based on age group and gender. You need a minimum of 60 points in each event to pass. If you get a 300 on your APFT, you get a special patch to sew on your PT uniform.
PT is different and the same everywhere you go. In my experience, normal PT was run by my squad leader (or equivalent). Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are typical cardio days while Tuesday and Thursday are for muscular strengthening. Believe it or not, my leadership courses to be an NCO included learning the ins and outs of running PT, from the appropriate warm-up (10 min) and cool-down (5 min) stretches, to work out routine variations for improving running speed and endurance, to the plethora of exercises designed to get soldiers of every fitness level to muscle failure and tears. Every unit I’ve been in has found ways to encourage soldiers to exceed the minimum standards.
So, Regular, Incentive, and Exempt. Regular PT meant you showed up for formation at 6 am and did PT with your squad. If you got a 280 on your APFT with at least 80 points in each event, you went on the Incentive program. You had to show up for 6 am formation, but then you did PT on your own. For a lot of people (like me) this meant sprinting back to our barracks after Revely so we could finish sleeping. If you got a 290 with 90 points in each event, you were PT Exempt. No formation for you. The problem is that some people need to be told to work out. The reward for a really high score was not working out for the next 4-6 months and then having to go back to Regular PT after nearly failing the next APFT. Granted, some people flourish when they get to run their own work out routine, especially since they can customize it to their own goals.
Well, after last week, I decided I needed an incentive program, one tailor-made for my motivations. Everyone likes being rewarded for good work. The trick is making sure the reward is proportional to the achievement. I’m not allowed a whole pizza to myself just for doing a walk in the morning. And giving myself a day off is counter-intuitive. I can skip any day I want because, duh, I’m the one in charge. The goal is to keep me from taking a day off, especially if I think I deserve it.
That word right there is bad news. I have used it to justify any number of indulgences. I got a good test grade so I deserve this ice cream. I got a bad grade so I deserve Five Guys as a mood booster. I walked four miles yesterday so I deserve the rest of the week off. Deserve is a slippery slope for people like me.
Yesterday, I went shopping for incentive and knowing my most dangerous addiction, I picked up a chocolate bar at World Market.
My three reasons for this particular bar:
1. It is less than $3.00. For a gourmet bar that is a great price. The Vosges Mo’s Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar is $7.00 at it’s cheapest. It is completely worth it, but I couldn’t justify it as a work out perk.
2. It is easy to portion out. The squares are large enough that I can take at least two bites, so it doesn’t feel like I’m being cheated when I have only one square. Also, each square is less than an ounce, so I’m not endangering my healthy diet even though I’m indulging in my chief temptation. (In fact, studies have shown that an ounce of dark chocolate can actually be good for you. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean 2 ounces is twice as good for you.)
3. This is by far one of my absolute favorite chocolate bars. It is not a stop-gap for a craving like most chocolate. It is what I crave. Rewarding myself with something I genuinely crave has a much higher chance of actually working.
There are rules, of course, because without rules there is nothing. I have decided on my routine for the week. Completion of the routine earns me one square. Why not put it off to the end of the week, you ask? Well, that might work for some, but I find I work better with daily positive reinforcement. The rewards and punishments are much more immediate that way. The struggle happens every day so there should be a prize for every small victory. (Besides, what if I miss a day for a legitimate reason? Does that mean no reward for all the work I did the rest of the week? I’d end up eating the bar anyway and then feeling guilty for not really earning it, as well as sick from eating that large a bar in one sitting.)
Here’s my routine for the week:
Daily – 1 hr walk (≈ 4 mi)
M – 3 sets Muscular Strengthening (MS)
30 sec push-ups (on knees)
60 sec abdominal twist
30 sec leg lifts/flutter kicks
30 sec reverse crunches
W – 4 sets MS
F – 5 sets MS
Wish me luck!