Rewriting Physical Training History: Utilizing GPS Data to Optimize Physical Training Sessions for the Tactical Athlete
Authors: Justin Goonan & Brad Godbold
Fitness standards for the Army have slowed down, drastically, in the last 100 years. In 1920, the Army Individual Efficiency Test required a soldier to cover 100-yards in 14 seconds (1) for an average speed of 6.5 meters per second (m/s). Shortly after WWII, the test changed to 75-yards in 8 seconds for an average speed of 8.5 m/s. Currently, the minimum standard for the 2-mile run is 21:00 (2.5m/s).
In 2016, LTC Nick Barringer and Martin Rooney made a persuasive case for re-evaluating the fitness standards with the introduction of the Direct Fire Speed Survival Score (DFS3) which identified 6.7 m/s as the target speed.
With the recent introduction of the Army’s Holistic Health & Fitness (H2F) program, I, like many of my S&C coaching peers, made the jump from college/team sports into Tactical Strength & Conditioning. The need to change traditional run workouts (i.e., long, low intensity runs) was glaringly obvious from day one.
Right away, we designed a running routine targeting 5 training targets: Speed (0-60 meters), Sprinting (60-200 meters), Mid-Distance (200-800 meters), Distance (800-3200 meters), Ruck March (106 meters per minute, Army Standard). Sessions rotated each week to focus on a different running zone.
Unit leaders had their reservations early on, especially those from a more traditional approach to physical training (PT). So, when we decided to lean on our previous experience in team sport coaching and sports science, we had tangible evidence as to what soldiers were doing, how much they were doing and how intense or efficiently they were doing it.
Based on the SPT metrics, we zoomed in on the following categories to assess an individual’s effort and output for each session:
After collecting data from just the first session, as well as tracking a few individual soldiers, wheels began to turn, and eyes began to open as to how using shorter, more intense running distances could prove beneficial in increasing the running ability and overall fitness levels of individual soldiers.
Here are a few visuals shared with unit leaders based on the different running sessions:
Army Standard (pace): 106 m/min
RUCK: Average Work Rate
SPRINT/SPEED TRAINING: Zone Distance
SPEED/SPRINT ZONE DISTANCE:
“That’s a SNITCH! That’s what that is!!!” - the response from one of the soldiers during the review session to evaluate the unit’s performance.
Besides the data, we (the S&C Coaches) were able to demonstrate how, in these sessions, everyone can work at, or just above, their own ability level and the entire squad/unit stays in the same area, which is easier to track/monitor versus going on long runs and losing sight of slower, less fit individuals.
Additionally, we were able to highlight how as much work, or more in some cases, is being done despite the short total distance or shorter duration. Therefore, by reducing the overall weekly volume, we may also be able to reduce the number of overuse injuries that tend to be visiting our physical therapy team.
What do we do with this???
Our intent, moving forward, is to utilize this resource in a few key scenarios:
1) Tracking soldiers preparing for selection schools or specialized training who may need higher intensity training
2) Observing soldiers in a return-to-service situation (i.e., return from injury) to monitor their output and intensity levels
3) Assisting with squad, platoon and/or company leaders wanting to track unit, or individual, performance during certain training sessions.
Just like in team sports, developing a more informed and educated soldier will lead to more efficient workouts thus resulting in higher performance capability with lower risk of acute, or chronic, injury.