PTI Robyn Lumas is now one of the army’s fittest of the fit. She became a member of the ‘300 Club’ (of which more below) and then went on to become an army PTI. A few years earlier she couldn’t run a mile without a break. Now she makes sure her all-male infantry battalion is in tip-top shape.
I always had passion for sports from a young age, always wanting to play football with the boys, ride my bike and do all the other boisterous activities you could think of as a kid. I loved it. This is what probably lead to my natural ability to run fast in school without doing any training and lead me to participating in the 800m athletics event at county level.
However, after leaving school my desire to compete in athletics was taken over by the demands of studying at college and university and my natural fitness soon vanished. I discovered this at the age of 20 (4 years after leaving school without doing any exercise and lots of boozing!) whilst encouraged by a group of uni friends to go out on a short run.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
I soon found myself struggling to keep up with the fitter ones, which was a nasty shock for me, as I was always used to being the fastest. As I hadn’t put any weight on I had no idea how unfit I was. This is when I decided to make change and from that day onwards I started running again five days a week.
On ‘day 1’ I ran about half a mile out of my university campus and back. This was a huge struggle – I had to have a 2 minutes break at the half mile point before running back. I repeated this every day for the rest of the week and I found that each day became that little bit easier and by the end of the week I could complete the whole mile effort in one go.
In my second week I ran 2 miles, in week 3, 3 miles and so on, until I got to the end of week 6. When it came to week 7, I decided instead of running further that I would improve my 6 mile (10km) time, so I kept running the same distance for a month to see how much time I could knock off. I managed to get down from 54 minutes to 46 minutes an 8 minute improvement.
I became so overwhelmed with my rapid progression that I became obsessed with fitness and decided that I wanted to pursue a career that enabled me to pursue my love for it. So I decided to take a break from university after my first year and got myself a job in a gym. I qualified as a fitness coach/ personal trainer and moved onto one of Virgin Active’s top clubs in Canary Wharf, London.
There I expanded my knowledge by working alongside some of best personal trainers in the industry. I became immersed in all the information I learned about varied methods of training and experimented with them all to personalise my own training regime to achieve optimum fitness both cardiovascular and muscular endurance wise.
Within a year of working in the fitness industry, I managed to achieve a level of fitness that got me second place in the X-Training Gym IronWomen competition 2012 and an athletic physique that enabled me to do bits of fitness modelling.
Although I loved my job training people, the more popular I was getting as a personal trainer the less time I had to train myself, as my training timings revolved around other peoples. So in 2012 I decided to make a career change and I joined the Army which had always excited me because of its renowned tough physical training on a daily basis.
“The test involves a 1.5 mile endurance run and a 2 minute press up and sit- up test. To get into the 300 Club you have to go sub 10 minutes for the run and do 46 press-ups and 77 sit-ups.”
When passing out from basic training I was awarded the, ‘Best at physical training’ award. My section commander then told me that I had met, from my fitness tests in training, the Army 300 Club standard. The Army 300 Club only includes soldiers who have achieved maximum results in the Army’s fitness test and each is awarded the maximum total of point available of 300. The test involves a 1.5 mile endurance run and a 2 minute press up and sit-up test.
To get into the 300 Club you have to go sub 10 minutes for the run and do 46 press-ups and 77 sit-ups. Shortly after I finished training and joined my unit I was asked to go on the Personal Training Instructor (PTI) cadre – this is nine weeks long and consists of various physical tests to see if you are physically fit enough to be an army PTI. The tests are gender-free i.e. men and women have to meet the same requirements.
“Ninety-seven men passed the tests and I was one of only three women who did the same.”
The tests include the 1.5 mile endurance run and the 2 minute press-up and sit-up test. This time to pass, you have to go below 9 minutes and 30 seconds on the run and achieve a minimum of 50 press-ups and 60 sit-ups.
The others tests are a 100 metre swim, an 8 mile walk/run with 25kg of weight on your back done in under 2 hours, a 1.5 mile run with 15kg on your back carrying a 5kg weapon in under 15 minutes, a climb over a 6ft wall, a 50 metre casualty (person) drag and a 30kg ammo tin lift whilst on to a 1 metre tall surface (this is done 5 times), a 150m walk with a 20kg jerry can in each hand, all whilst wearing 20kg worth of kit.
Ninety-seven men passed the tests and I was one of only three women who did the same. Now I’m a female PTI in an all-male infantry battalion. The infantry demands the highest levels of fitness. I do hear rumours from colleagues that some of the guys don’t think it’s right that women should be able to take them out on physical training as they don’t believe women are strong or fit enough to carry the same weight as a bloke.
However, their opinions don’t bother me, rather it just gives me great pleasure and motivation in proving them wrong. I ensure that I take part in every PT lesson that I deliver as well as instructing, to make it very clear that women are just as capable. I’ve always had it instilled in me from being a civilian personal trainer that you shouldn’t give someone an exercise that you cannot do yourself.
From taking part in various exercise classes and training sessions myself, I always feel more motivated if the instructor is actually taking part in the lesson. This makes me feel that if they can do it whilst instructing and talking so can I.
Robyn’s Training To achieve the level of cardiovascular fitness I have I use lots of different types of high intensity interval training (HIIT) methods. On the running track I tend to do sessions like, 6 x 400m sprints with 2 minutes’ rest between each interval.
Each session is timed and the aim is to go faster over future sessions. In the gym I tend to use the treadmill and the rower. On the treadmill I often use a high gradient for a short distance at a set base speed, which I won’t allow myself to fall below.
I’ll do 5 repeats and each time I do the workout I try to raise the base speed, even if its by 0.1 of a level. On the Concept 2 rower I’ll do 1 minute on, 1 minute off intervals repeated 10 times. I can see on the machine’s screen my average speed per 500m throughout the so I try to go faster each time. I also do Tabata circuits.
Tabata circuits are a 4 minute HIIT workout which involve x 20 seconds of hard work and 10 seconds rest. I tend to use a hard exercises, like press-up, burpees or knees to chest tuck jumps.
The key to my training is that my workouts are always progressive as I’m a strong believer of, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get, what you’ve always gotten”, so in each workout I’m always looking to up my game overtime and I always set myself targets.
“I believe training to this level of intensity, until you literally cannot move the bar, is not only good because 1) it ensures that you have worked to your maximum , but 2) that it is also a really good measure of testing whether you have actually improved your muscular fitness.”
When it comes to weight training I always train each muscle group separately. I train chest, back, shoulders and legs each on separate days. This means that each muscle group gets a highly focussed workout. I always train each muscle until I reach failure. This means that I literally cannot move the bar to complete an extra rep.
I usually do around 6 different exercises for each muscle group (3 sets of around 6 reps each). These workouts improve my muscular strength. Then on my last exercise I choose a relatively light weight that I believe I will struggle to do 50 reps with and attempt to do it 50 times without any breaks as fast as I can, until I reach failure.
This improves my muscular endurance. If I don’t complete the 50 reps without a break I give myself a little break and then complete the 50. I believe training to this level of intensity, until you literally cannot move the bar, is not only good because 1) it ensures that you have worked to your maximum , but 2) that it is also a really good measure of testing whether you have actually improved your muscular fitness.