You think you will make the weight?

Hi John,

First, thanks for the great programming.  I've been using it for the last six months, and really couldn't be happier.

However, I'm training for the Marine Corp's Officer Candidate School.  Part of its requirements is a three-mile run in 18:00 for maximum points.  I recently ran a 5k with less than satisfactory results.  I wonder what you would recommend to improve my endurance for these long runs, besides things like intervals, which I haven't seen carry over totally into endurance type runs over a mile, without sacrificing strength gains.


AP – If your test involves a 5k, I think you should start running 5ks or some form of distance in preparation. We always had some awful conditioning test the first day of training camp, I always made sure I had done it a few times so I knew exactly how fast I had to run and what to expect. The biggest expectation was whether or not I could pass it. My redshirt freshman year in college I had to run a sub 7 minute mile if I was under 300 lbs, and a 7:30 mile if I was over. I ate myself sick and couldn't get over 300 lbs, so I had to bang out a sub 7:00 minute mile. I ran it every week for 2 months and on my last attempt I finished in 6:58. While I continued to train, my training took on a lot of distance volume in preparation for the test and as a result I missed out on valuable speed work. In hindsight, that was a stupid test.

The confidence of knowing that you have run the 5k in 18 minutes will do worlds on test day if you have done it in training. I wish I could say that short sprints and heavy weights will give let you hammer sub 6-minute miles but that would be bullshit. Running a 5k at a sub 6 minute pace takes a certain level of capacity, conditioning and preparation. I think you should start adding in some Tabata runs, intervals and definitely start trying to hold the pace needed to successful in your run and build up from there.

You might have to sacrifice some strength gains to be successful at your test. Do whatever it takes to pass the test, then get back to work. The weights will still be waiting for you. Sometimes when we train I get angry at the weights when they push me around, I always want to say “Don’t you remember? I have lifted more than this and it was light. What is up? We are not friends?” The iron doesn’t remember…no respect.


Posted in Adventure, FAQ, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

8 Responses to You think you will make the weight?

  1. John Chandler-Pepeln

    There’s an old Crossfit Journal article that might be useful: Strategies for a 7 minute 2K row. ( It doesn’t address AP’s concern about maintaining strength gains, but might help hit that 18 minute 3 mile. The basic idea is to mix three approaches: hold the appropriate pace for as long as possible, run the distance as quickly as possible, and run the distance at the right pace done as intervals.


    P.S. Love the new blog and have been following CFFB since it launched. Best programming I’ve ever been lucky enough to try.

  2. AP, I spent my first 6 years of military service in the Marine Corps. Maxing the PT test is great but not mandatory. The monster that would carry extra ammo for the M-60 & 81mm mortar as well as the mortar baseplate usually wasnt a sub 18:00 guy but he was a god when we were in the field and one the most intergral parts of our war machine. My point is use your skills where you can do the best good for the team. It might be grabbing someone elses pack so they can keep up with the rest of the crew. My best time was 19:43. I could always max the p/u & s/u but a sub 18:00 was unreachable for me.
    You’ll do great and kudos for the fore sight to get ready & train.

  3. Dan S

    AP – As a former enlisted Marine, I’ve run the PFT (Physical Fitness Test) a few times. I’m sure that you know there’s also the pull ups and crunches in that test. I would highly recommend that you train to max out those other two events first. The pull ups are worth five points a piece, so they’re the money maker in the PFT. And the crunches are the easiest to improve on if you’re weak in that area, and they’re worth 1 point a piece. But even if you knock a minute off of your run time, you’ve only gained 6 points. Remember that it’s a combined score that you’re going for. Most of the guys that I’ve known with first class PFT’s were crappy runners, but they maxed out their pull ups (20 reps) and sit ups (100 reps). If you’re under 27, you need 225 total points to have a first class PFT.

    Regarding running just the three miles in the PFT. Do a Google or YouTube search for “running pawback” and “running hip rotation”. I used to run in a way that most of my energy was spent to lift myself off the ground rather than to move me forward. Because of my size, this beat the hell out of my knees, and my run times sucked. One of the other Marines in my shop who was in much better shape than I was gave me an article from some magazine on pawback and hip rotation. I started running on a treadmill that faced a mirror so that I could watch my running technique, making sure that I “bounced” as little as possible. I didn’t feel like I was actually running any faster, but in one month’s time I literally knocked two minutes off of my three mile time (and gained 12 points on my PFT score). I’m not saying that yours is a technique issue, but this sure helped me out.

    If you’re doing a crossfit based workout regimen before OCS (Officer’s Candidate School), you’ll knock it out of the water, no problem. You should probably also look up the CFT (Combat Fitness Test), if you haven’t already received the info about that monster from your OSO (Officer Selection Officer) or ROTC sergeant. There’s a few good videos of it on YouTube. The third part of the CFT (the “movement under fire”) is actually a lot like a crossfit metcon because it has you doing so much stuff with no breaks. Your scores on both the PFT and CFT will be taken into account on your FitReps for promotion, so be sure to train for both.

    Good luck at OCS.

  4. Tane

    I’d like to add my voice to the above opinions. I was an infantry officer in an Army (non-US) that placed a much higher emphasis on running/marching and much lower emphasis on strength/upper-body than US Forces. In my opinion/experience this was not the ideal balance but it is how it is.
    Your 3-mile time (in PT kit) will probably not be as useful as your CF Football training when it comes to actually doing Marine-stuff in training or operations BUT you will be assessed on the PFT not the CF Football Total. (Unfortunately for you). If you want to “do well” at Quantico (and therefore get to do the job you want) you need to get a good score on the PFT.
    To do this, you are going to have to go out and run 3 miles on a regular basis (1-3 times/week) until you get the time you wish. This will adversely affect your strength and muscle gains- no way around it.
    I strongly recommend you heed the advice of the former Marines who have posted above. If pullups have a better cost/benefit ratio, prioritise them. Approach run training in different ways.
    A sad truth is that, unlike the NFL, infantry-style activity does reward a good strength to weight ratio in most cases.
    Train for the test (as John did), ace the test and pick up the Quest For Bigger, Stronger, Faster when you have achieved your goal at OCS.
    I have worked with the USMC in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Far East. They are superb individuals and well worth joining.
    I won’t wish you “Good Luck”: Professionals don’t need it.

  5. AP

    John, John, Dan, and Dan, thanks a lot for your insight. I really appreciate the insider’s view. I’ll try and do us proud.

  6. AP

    Whoops. Jane too.

  7. Ryan Brown

    when i was in the marines all we did run run run, and nobody ever got faster, then one day i met lord and savior captain chontosh and was introduced to crossfit and saw amazing results. i cut 2:30 min off my run time to a 18:50 and NEVER ran more than a 400. 3 miles is not really and “endurance” event so the fact is that if you bust your ass in these WODS and occasionally throw in a traditional crossfit wod with a couple 400s you should be fine. and then when you hit pendleton and start humping the hills youll be pumped that you did heavy ass squats!

  8. Ryan Brown

    oh yeah, and i almost forgot. i have seen numerour skinny marines run 18:00 PFT in green on green and then put gear on and not be able to hack it. Having a good PFT is cool and all and counts toward promotion but we train to be physically fit because you and your buddies life depends on it. our gear is heavy as shit, i know countless marines who didnt run a good PFT but if we had to firemans carry or drag a marine with gear on… that was who you wanted with you

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