Thoughts on the Army’s new fitness standards


Princess welding a sword.

The Army’s announced that they’re going to be revising the physical training standards so it’ll be one standard for both men and women.  The current standard–probably the same one I had when I was in–had the same elements, but were adjusted for the women.

Or, basically, the original physical training test was developed with the strengths of men in mind.  Most women don’t have the upper body strength to do 42 push-ups.  The Army treated the women like men and just adjusted the standards by gender.

The men hated it.  They always thought the women were getting over.  No one seems to grasp that women have different body types, or that they were treating women as if they were men.

For example, make a fist and hold it up next to the fist of a person of the opposite gender.  Women’s fists are at an angle; men’s are straight.  It makes a difference in how women hold a sword–and they are taught to sword fight like a man (this came from a science fiction con I went to).

I remember going on Battalion runs, which I despised, because the sergeants would gather up all the stragglers at the end and try to embarrass us.  The stragglers were always women.  No one did the math and grasped that the average woman was a whole lot shorter than the average guy.

What I think is going to happen is the Army is going to set the standard to what the guys can do.  Then two things will happen:

  1. The women will get injured trying to keep up with the guys.  I got shin splits trying to march with a 6’4″ guy setting the pace. He had ten inches on me.
  2. The women will fail physical training tests and be kicked out, and the military will lose its diversity.

And I’m not talking diversity of gender…but diversity of experience.  If the only tools you have are a hammer, then everything will look like it can be fixed with a hammer.  The military already has a problem with getting rid of their technical skill.  My brother was an Oracle programmer, and they reclassified his job, merging it with a computer operator.  Then they told him he needed to change his job and get retrained.  He thought that was crazy and got out.  I’ve seen more recent stories on the Army doing this to people will skills they really do need.

The solution?

Woman running

This is just me, but the focus should be on fitness.  It sounds like it is, but it actually is focused on failure or success, and how many points you get.  It’s like being graded in school for how fast you run.

One possible option is a run timed based on your height and age.  That’d take care of the problem of a 5’4″ woman trying to run to a time set for an average man.  But it would also be fairer for the shorter guys.  And it might save on the injuries that send people to sick call, and eventually to the VA.

Also maybe rethink the other two exercises (push-ups and sit-ups).  The women have a lot of trouble with push-ups, and the men tend to have a lot of problems with sit-ups.  Maybe instead of standardized testing for this, a required extra credit exercise that a soldier could pick from a list.  It wouldn’t be scored in the same way, but maybe on how many you did, rather than how many you do based on your age.  More you do, more points.

No one will probably do anything like this though.  I imagine the Army will test the pilot, find out they’re losing all the women, and switch it back.  We’ll see.

Support veterans charities and get lots of books by buying the Remembering Warriors Bundle.  Click to Tweet.

Montage image of all the covers from Remembering Warriors