Friday was a fantastic day. We had the physical fitness test (PFT) in the morning. This consists of a 3 mile run, crunches and pull-ups. For females, the Marine Corps is transitioning from the flexed arm hang to pull-ups. This year, women have the choice whether to do the flexed arm hang (maximum is 70 seconds with your chin above the bar) or they can do pull-ups (minimum is 3; maximum is 8). Of course, I had to do the pull-ups. Opting for the flexed arm hang seemed like such a cop out!
I’ve been training for three months, slowly increasing. I had done my Google research (my favorite go-to tool) and found a plan where I did pull-ups five days a week. The idea was not to do too many pull-ups in any one set, but to do multiple sets throughout the day, and to increase your total number each day. It promised to double my maximum number in 30 days.
By Sunday of this past week, I had reached 50 pull-ups in one day! I was still nervous getting on the bar this morning, since I hadn’t tried to max out in over a month.
Most of you know that I can (occasionally!) be hard on myself. This PFT was no exception, especially since it was the first year for pull-ups, and I was the senior office on deck. I was out there taking the PFT with my Marines. I’m supposed to set the example. I should be running a stellar PFT. I was not overly confident, though I objectively knew that I’d gained a lot of strength.
As I walk up to the pull-up bars, there were Marines everywhere. It was obvious to me that more than just our unit was taking the PFT that morning. I found the pull-up bars with our unit (literally, there were 8-10 sets of pull-up bars – a popular place) and checked in with the scorers. I got in line behind the Marines, and waited my turn to get to the bar. As I walk up, the Staff Sergeant (SSgt) shouts, “I need a timer!” The female sergeant standing behind him said, “she doesn’t need a timer, SSgt; she’s going to do pull-ups!” He looks at me, almost surprised, and I decided that it was best just to start.
I felt strong with the first few, and the confidence built quickly. By the time I got to 8, I had just started to struggle. I was feeling great. Then I hear, “do one for Chesty!” (Chesty Puller, iconic figure in Marine Corps history, and a source of inspiration for Marines the world over) Yes, I knocked out one more. J
I had worked so hard, and it had paid off. My real reward? Some very motivated Marines, who came up to me, one after another, to congratulate me and to tell me how much I motivated them.
The run came next. I had no idea how this was going to go. I had not trained for the run the way I had trained for pull-ups. But I knew that pacing myself was the best way to go. Start out too quickly, and you run out of gas – fast. So I stuck to my standard operating procedure (SOP), allowing all the Marines to get in front of me from the start. I let myself warm up, then started to move. As I passed one Marine and another, I was rewarded with an “oorah, ma’am!” The Marines were so motivated, and motivating. I enjoyed encouraging each one, ask what their goal time was, and to cheer them on. In the last half mile, I valiantly tried to pass a Marine I’d been trying to pass for more than a mile. Failing (again), he looked back at me and said, “come on, ma’am, let’s finish together”. We both sped up, going all out. What a great run.
Thoroughly pleased with my PFT, I was eager to see how the rest of the Marines had done. I walked around, trying to connect with each of them, congratulating them on the run. I could not think of a better way to start the weekend.