Cardiorespiratory Fitness - Running

Running enables the body to improve the transport of blood and oxygen to the working muscles and brings about positive changes in the muscles’ ability to produce energy. Running fits well into any physical training program ‘because a training effect can be attained with only three 20-minute workouts per week.
Some soldiers may need instruction to improve their running ability. The following style of running is desired. The head is erect with the body in a straight line or slightly bent forward at the waist. The elbows are bent so the forearms are relaxed and held loosely at waist level. The arms swing naturally from front to rear in straight lines. (Cross-body arm movements waste energy. The faster the run, the faster the arm action.) The toes point straight ahead, and the feet strike on the heel and push off at the big toe.
Besides learning running techniques, soldiers need information on ways to prevent running injuries. The most common injuries associated with PT in the Army result from running and occur to the feet, ankles, knees, and legs. Proper warm-up and cool-down, along with stretching exercises and wearing appropriate clothing and well-fitting running shoes, help prevent injuries. Important information on safety factors and common running injuries is presented in Chapter 13 and Appendix E.
Failure to allow recovery between hard bouts of running cannot only lead to overtraining, but can also be a major cause of injuries. A well-conditioned soldier can run five to six times a week. However, to do this safely, he should do two things: 1) gradually buildup to running that frequently; and, 2) vary
the intensity and/or duration of the running sessions to allow recovery between them.

Ability Group Running
Traditionally, soldiers have run in unit formations at a pace prescribed by the PT leader. Commanders have used unit runs to improve unit cohesion and fitness levels. Unfortunately, too many soldiers are not challenged enough by the intensity or duration of the unit run, and they do not receive a training benefit. For example, take a company that runs at a nine-minute-per-mile pace for two miles. Only soldiers who cannot run two miles in a time faster than 18 minutes will receive a significant training effect. Therefore, in terms of conditioning, most soldiers who can pass the 2-mile-run test are wasting their time and losing the chance to train hard to excel. Ability group running (AGR) is the best way to provide enough intensity so each soldier can improve his own level of CR fitness.
AGR lets soldiers train in groups of near-equal ability. Each group runs at a pace intense enough to produce a training effect for that group and each soldier in it. Leaders should program these runs for specific lengths of time, not miles to be run. This procedure lets more-fit groups run a greater distance than the less-fit groups in the same time period thus enabling every soldier to improve.
The best way to assign soldiers to ability groups is to make a list, in order, of the unit’s most recent APFT 2-mile-run times. The number of groups depends on the unit size, number of leaders available to conduct the runs, and range of 2-mile-run times. A company-sized unit broken down into four to six ability groups, each with a leader, is best for aerobic training, For activities like circuits, strength training, and competitive events, smaller groups are easier to work with than one large group.
Because people progress at different rates, soldiers should move to faster groups when they are ready. To help them train at their THR and enhance their confidence, those who have a hard time keeping up with a group should be placed in a slower group. As the unit’s fitness level progresses, so should the intensity at which each group exercises. Good leadership will prevent a constant shifting of soldiers between groups due to lack of effort.
AGR is best conducted at the right intensity at least three times a week. As explained, the CR system should not be exercised “hard” on consecutive days. If AGR is used on hard CR training days, unit runs at lower intensities are good for recovery days. Using this rotation, soldiers can gain the desired benefits of both unit and ability-group runs. The problem comes when units have a limited number of days for PT and there is not enough time for both. In this case, unit runs should seldom, if ever, be used and should be recognized for what they are -- runs to build unit cohesion.
Leaders can use additional methods to achieve both goals. The unit can begin in formation and divide into ability groups at a predetermined release point. The run can also begin with soldiers divided into ability groups which join at a link-up point. Alternately, ability groups can be started over the same route in a stagger, with the slowest group first. Linkups occur as each faster group overtakes slower groups.
With imagination and planning, AGR will result in more effective training workouts for each soldier. The argument that ability-group running detracts from unit cohesion is invalid. Good leadership and training in all areas promote unit cohesion and team spirit; training that emphasizes form over substance does not.