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Airman proves 'it can be done'

Senior Airman Karla Burns, of the 96th Air Base Wing staff, uses the proper form while practicing her push-ups during her morning workout routine May 3 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.  Burns struggled to complete the required amount of push-ups during her recent physical training tests.  With the help of the fitness center staff, she began a workout plan that allowed her to excel and pass her test.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Senior Airman Karla Burns, of the 96th Air Base Wing staff, uses the proper form while practicing her push-ups during her morning workout routine May 3 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Burns struggled to complete the required amount of push-ups during her recent physical training tests. With the help of the fitness center staff, she began a workout plan that allowed her to excel and pass her test. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- It can be done...

When I joined the Air Force, I was told not to worry about the physical training aspect - I'd be whipped into shape at basic training. I went to basic unable to do pushups correctly and even graduated unable to do them correctly.

My running and sit-ups improved while I was there, but I thought pushups were impossible for me. I could do the motion of pushups, which always got me by when PT test time came around.

When the guidance came down in 2010 that a fitness assessment center would be set up to administer PT tests "the correct way," I went into panic mode.

I knew eventually I would somehow have to do a real, no kidding, 90-degree push-up. This gave me some motivation to spend more time in the gym and practice more, but I wasn't getting any better. I attended push-up clinics and sought help. Each time, I was told to just keep working at it.

My worst fear came true when at my first FAC administered PT test... I failed! Only four of my push-ups counted and even that number was very generous of them.

My plan of action for the next 90 days was to work out even more and continue practicing so I'd be ready for my second test.

At the next test, I actually got worse. Only two of my pushups counted. This was very discouraging. Standing in front of my commander to receive paperwork was something I never thought I'd have to do, especially since I was making an honest effort to improve.

The day of my second failure, it really hit me what I was doing was not helping and I'd need to get more professional assistance. The next day, I hired a personal trainer through the health and wellness center and began attending more and more strength classes both on and off base.

After my 90 days was up, I found myself yet again, at the FAC nervous as ever to take my third test. I knew if I failed, my line number for staff sergeant would be out the window. I would literally have one more chance before I was recommended for discharge.

I completed 10 push-ups that time, which was a long way from 18 which is my minimum. At that point, it was so exhausting for me to even think about what was happening - yet I could not stop stressing about my situation.

I was almost ready to give up and start planning my separation from the Air Force. However, I made a decision I was not going to let that happen to me. With the support of my co-workers and fitness center staff, I was going to give it my all, this time.

I began working with Ben Gleason, Eglin's military fitness liaison, at the field house, who advised me to take a step back and space out my workouts rather than doing them every day. I realized, all this time, I had been training the wrong way. He helped me teach my body how to do a correct push up.

My new workout regimen consisted of two days a week, any homework Mr. Gleason gave me and cardio on the days in between. I could not believe the improvements I was made.
My fourth test came and I was ready for this one. I knew I had worked hard enough to be able to pass. I wanted to knock it out and have the weight of the stress lifted. I did 18 pushups and I passed with an 86.

I was so relieved to pass, but I knew I'd only have six months until my next test. That motivated me to keep up with my workouts and maintain my pushups. I hope to improve more and max them out next time.

If you are making an effort to pass or improve your PT test, my advice is to be accountable for yourself. It is up to you to ensure you're working out when you should be and as hard as you should be. You have to put in the hours and the effort to be successful and don't be afraid to reach out for help.

If you fail your PT test, chances are you should seek assistance from one of the many resources on base. There are plenty of people willing to help out and get us where we need to be. The classes offered are a big help, but the first step is showing up.

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