How to Prepare for Fitness Test Day

U.S. Army Sergeants Major and enlisted Soldiers from across the country pilot in the Army Combat Readiness Test (ACRT) during the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Training Symposium, Fort Jackson, S.C. The ACRT is a six-event assessment designed to reduce injuries and replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test. (Photo by Spc. Tynisha Daniel)

Taking fitness tests in the military is a regular occurrence. Thousands of people take their first fitness test every year, unfortunately, many fail due to poor preparation. If you think you can pass your fitness test without practicing, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Your optimal performance lies in a few basic things: training and practice of the testing events, and recovery.

You cannot expect to be competitive or perform well if you do not train properly and that means a cycle of training specifically for the test. This cycle could be as little as a few weeks if you already are used to training regularly. But, this cycle could take a long time depending upon your ability and specifics of your future fitness test.

For instance, if you have to take a swimming test and you do not know how to swim yet, the harsh reality is you need to take lessons first, get into swimming shape over time (could be a year), then go join the military branch that you want to serve in that requires swimming.

Reality of Fitness Test Training (Special Ops Specific)

For instance, many people join the Navy and want to go to SEAL training. They must first pass a BUD/S PST (Physical Screening Test) in order to get TO the training (Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training).

If you do not pass with competitive scores, your dreams of even attending SEAL training will not come true. BUT, if you only prepare by taking a PST over and over, you will not be prepared to make it THROUGH the training. So, learning how to master this fitness test is critical and you must start out with the basics scores, keep training to elevate your scores into a competitive zone, THEN join the Navy.

Crush the PST the first few times you take it, so you can focus more on getting THROUGH the training than just getting good at PSTs.

Too many people think the SEAL Mentor is going to prepare you for BUD/S and boot camp will help you get in shape for BUD/S. That is not the case.

The Mentor / Scout Team is responsible for a recruiting district and you may actually only see them once every few weeks depending upon the size of your recruiting district. Training on your own is critical. See the difference of training TO the training and THROUGH the training. You have to master Phase 1 of Tactical Fitness (*To the training) before you can start to build on Phase 2 of Tactical Fitness (*Through the training).

Perfect World of Fitness Test Training

In a perfect world, joining the Navy, spending six or more months in delayed entry program taking a PST every week, attending boot camp, then BUD/S Prep Course would prepare you for BUD/S. But unless you see your Mentor every day, 6 days a week, you have to be capable of high level training on your own if you really want to prepare for what lies ahead after the fitness test.

For the BUD/S student, scoring optimal scores on the PST is mandatory: 8-9 Minute 500yd swim, 80-100 pushups / situps, 20 pullups, 9-9:30 minute 1.5 mile run are considered the zone of "good enough." But eventually, you also need a window to focus on not just maintaining the PST scores, but getting better at 2 mile swims with fins, 4 mile timed runs, load bearing (rucking, log pt, boat carries), and obstacle courses. This is TO the training mentioned in the above paragraph.

For Those Active Duty Looking to Ace the Bi-Annual Fitness Test

For those of you focused on staying in the regular military and passing the fitness standards every six months, you need to train. In a perfect world, the job you do in the military would keep you in shape enough to pass the basic level fitness test. However, most often, the jobs many in the military are becoming increasingly sedentary and less active.

The reality of this world is that you will have to train regularly at a basic level to pass the basic military fitness test. Where people go wrong is they start training two weeks prior to the fitness test after several months of inactivity only to hurt themselves doing exercises like sit-ups or crunches or running.

Inactivity does not prepare you for anything but sitting still. Often fat gain, muscle loss, strength and endurance loss is the only thing you will achieve by skipping training. As you age, this equation of calories in vs calories out becomes more difficult to work to lose weight as you find that it is much easier to gain weight after 35 years old than it was at 20 years old.

When you make the military a career, you will be older longer than you are younger in this job. Maintaining physical readiness is even more important as mobility and flexibility are compromised and aches in muscles and joints cause the inactive body to not want to build new habits of physical fitness. (See build habits articles for help)

Proven Methods to Build Good Habits -- We are products of our habits.

Basically, you just need to get into the habit of training on your own. Get good at keeping the habit of daily fitness activities, otherwise, you will get good at skipping workouts, becoming deconditioning for your job of being in the military.



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