Nine push-ups won't kill you

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Linda Welz
  • Fourth Air Force Public Affairs
I gave birth to my first child at the age of 23. I gave birth to my second child just two weeks before my 40th birthday. My youngest is 13 now. Do the math.

I tell you all this to set the stage for my U.S. Air Force Fit to Fight test under the new guidelines, which for me, was in July. According to the new guidelines, I would have to do nine push-ups in one minute.

Under previous guidelines, I could fail this portion and make up the difference in another area. The most I had ever done was three and that was a stretch. Push-ups have never been my strong suit. These old arms were not meant to fully support my ampleness, let alone move it all down and then back up again!

Knowing there was a good chance I'd fail the push-up section of the test, I had a mindset of, "If I'm going to fail in one part, why try in the other areas?" Plus, I figured that if I sandbagged a little, I would have room for improvement, and that's always good, right?

I didn't disappoint myself in July. I failed gloriously. The problem was, having failed, I did not like having the consequences of the next fitness test in 90 days hanging over my head. Unlike the first fitness test, during the second fitness test, if I didn't show improvement, I would suffer ramifications that could affect my career.

I did not want my 24 years of good service to end up tarnished due to a fitness test, but I kept telling myself I would never be able to do that many push-ups.

A few weeks later, my command chief, who had received the fitness test results, requested to speak with me. She gave me a motivational speech and told me about a few co-workers who exercise at the base gym regularly. She said they had an easy routine that would help me pass the test and I should consider joining them.

When your command chief says you "should consider" something, translate that to "just do it." I wasn't very motivated about this prospect, but I knew it had to be done.

I showed up for my first session with my co-workers and was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn't that difficult. But I was still skeptical about my ability to magically produce nine push-ups when I'd only been able to do three on the last fitness test.

Over the next few months, I did my new workout routine, although not always three times a week. After all, I had work to accomplish and a family to take care of, and I knew I'd never pass the push-ups anyway.

Fitness re-test day arrived and I was ready to improve in all areas since I had, after all, worked out some since the last time. My goal this time was four push-ups.

After the weight, height and circumference measurement and the sit-up test, I joined my group and physical training leaders who directed us to the push-up area.

I told my Fit-to-Fight partner that I would not be able to do nine, but that I would try to do as many as I could.

"Ready, begin!" A physical training leader called and I lowered my torso until my upper arms were parallel to the floor.


That's more than I did last time, but wait! I still have strength left! and still going? Eight...nine...ten! What?! I must need to rest by now. But maybe I could push out one more.

The physical training leader shouted, "Ten seconds!"

I had already passed, with two extra push-ups to spare, but now I was curious to see how many more I could do.


I was ecstatic when I finally dropped to the ground. I couldn't believe I had not only exceeded what I did last time, but more importantly, I had surpassed my minimum! What a difference a little regular conditioning had made!

I checked my scores and knew I would pass the Fit-to-Fight test as long as I completed the run in my maximum allowable time. But would I make it? I was not sure.

With my running gear on (a gator for cooling wrapped around my neck and a Survivor buff around my head), I started the run with everyone else, setting a steady pace as the last one in the pack. As a personal goal, I had decided to try to complete the run in less time than the minimum requirement for my age group.

All along the course there were PTLs shouting out times and words of encouragement, as well as cadences. That was a first for me. In the past it was just me, all alone, left behind by the other runners.

I thought the presence of the PTLs on the course, watching over me like a hawk, would be a bad thing for me, but I was wrong. They were there to help and help they did! One of them even ran alongside me and helped pace me during my last quarter mile. I crossed the finish line with my best time ever!

My new goal is to run the 5K race at the U.S. Air Force Marathon next year. The distance may be just twice as long as the Air Force PT test, but hey, the important thing is to just start.

This is my testimonial to everyone that a little bit of effort on a regular basis, plus a positive attitude about the new guidelines equals success. Just do the math.