PT is kind of like dirty socks

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Steven Goetsch
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs
The phone rings in your office. It is the orderly room and they want to speak to you. Daily Air Force life lends itself to a couple possibilities; performance report overdue, no, late for a meeting, no, orders, can't be. When you ask them what they want, their response is simply, "you need to come and sign something." 

That could only mean one thing...urinalysis. As you begrudgingly go to your orderly room with bottle of water in hand, you are shocked to find out you have been tasked to take your annual physical training test tomorrow. 

Now this is just a fictitious scenario, but what if? The Air Force is constantly tweaking our fitness program so that it will improve the way Airmen stay fit to fight, and my little scenario might not be too far from reality. There is no doubt that overall physical fitness has improved, but in a lot of cases, it falls short of being battle ready. 

This reluctance to consistently stay in shape almost has the makings of some type of mind control. I believe it is those same forces that make me throw my dirty socks on the floor. Sometimes even at the foot of the hamper. It drives my wife nuts. You would think after 15 years, I would eventually "get it", but when my wife asks me why I do it, I just look at her with a blank stare, empty mind and the only thing I can even think to say is, "I don't know."  Even that discomfort doesn't keep me from doing it again.

That same hypnotic state runs through fitness centers around the world.  Airmen know they have PT tests every year, and know they can be tagged to deploy at any time, and somehow, you still have some Airmen who resist. Once again, mind control.  

PT has been around much longer than my wife and I have been together, but there we all are, I'm getting yet another lecture, and physical therapy clinics are being gainfully employed. 

Now directing Airmen to do something doesn't always garner the best response. Most of the time you receive better results when you get buy in. That's why the Air Force tries to ease into change with subtlety. Getting time to PT, the latest and greatest equipment and fitness on performance reports are all great catalysts for a fit force, but the latest proposal of spontaneous PT tests just makes the most sense to me. We are all expeditionary, all the time. What else is there to debate? 

If you get orders to report to Bagram in a month, it's easy to get a slot at the range, skip line at the immunization clinic, or even get a will expedited, but it might be a little harder shedding those extra 15 pounds you put on since your last PT test. 

Monitoring fitness year round is not new. Many units are already conducting "mock" PT tests. Their rising unpopularity forces some physical training leaders to conceal their mock tests under such a veil of secrecy; you would think it is a matter of national security. If they do not take those measures, the Outlook calendar coincidentally receives a lot of visitors. 

I just think people dislike PT because some programs are hard physical work that requires a long-term commitment. The bad part about that attitude is if you stay in shape all year long, it's really not that difficult. I'm still trying to figure out exactly at what point in our lives did running around stop being fun, and become this annoying bear that gets heavier after each lap of the track. As kids, your parents probably had to drag you home from running around the neighborhood. 

We're all older now, and I will be the first to admit that it is harder to get those miles in, but getting paid to workout seems to be a pretty good gig. In some ways, I guess that makes us all professional athletes, and the Air Force is our official sponsor. Now I wouldn't start calling Drew Rosenhaus to negotiate your step promotion, but it is definitely a great benefit that you would be crazy not to take advantage of. 

Even if you aren't tasked to operate in the mountains of Afghanistan, or convoy for hours on end through the streets of Baghdad, there is even a reason to stay in shape back at home station. That reason starts for everyone some time Monday morning as we put that service dress uniform on. 

As a supervisor, I try to impart the importance of PT to my subordinates, but sometimes when the benefit is invisible, or buried deep in the future like reduced stress, better cardiovascular health, or longevity, it is a lot harder to make your point. When we PT outside, I'll even resort to rah-rah tactics and tell them that I know it is cold and rainy, but quickly remind them that it was 17 degrees in Kabul yesterday. 

As a last resort, I just give them my wife's dirty sock speech, I always remove the sarcasm and expletives, because that wouldn't be professional of me. But it is just about as basic as it gets. "It's not difficult; you know what to do, so just do it."