If you are looking to join the military or police or are already a serving member, then you will need to pass at least one fitness test in the next 12 months.
In a perfect world you’ll already have a high level of fitness and passing the test will be a breeze, or you’ll have plenty of notice and can work through a structured program for eight to 12 weeks before the test that ensures you are well prepared.
Unfortunately the world isn’t perfect and in many cases you might be called on to perform a fitness test on very short notice.
You might be on a waiting list when someone drops out and a spot at recruit training opens up or you might get sick during your regular work up to a fitness test and then only have a week or two to prepare for the test.
In this article I’m going to show you a couple of strategies for preparing for a fitness test in minimum time.
Keep in mind that these strategies are NOT a substitute for a proper ongoing fitness program and definitely not an excuse to leave it to the last minute.
In both cases they work best if you have already achieved the required level of fitness previously and just need a tune up.
But, whatever the circumstances, these examples will give you a fighting chance come test day if your preparation has been less than optimal.
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Ok, so here are some guidelines.
The best way to get good at something is to practice it a lot. With a fitness test, this means hitting the components of the test and building the intensity as quickly as possible.
You need to practice the required pace of any running test for short periods even if you can’t hold that pace for the full duration. If you need to run a level 7.5 in the beep test but can only do level 6.5 you need to practice not only the endurance for the lower levels but you need to practice the higher levels to get used to the pace.
For push-ups, sit-ups or chin-ups the best method is very frequent submaximal practice. Take 50 per cent of your max and do a single set of that number every hour throughout the day on one day and the next day do a single set of 70 per cent of your max every two hours. This frequent practice teaches your muscles and nervous system to work efficiently and is remarkably effective and not very fatiguing, so you will have lots of energy to spend on your running workouts.
When time is limited it’s tempting to train every single day, this will work for about one week and then you will burn out. I suggest either training two sessions a day for two days, then a day off – or one session a day for three days, then a day off.
No matter how tempting it is to train right up until the test – DON’T. Fitness is built during the recovery periods after a session, not during the session itself. A light session three days before the test and two days of complete rest is going to give you a much better result than flogging yourself until the night before. It’s always better to go into a test a little underdone and hope the adrenaline gets you through than turn up well prepared but exhausted!
Ok, so now let’s take a brief look at two sample programs for a pre-enlistment fitness test and a regular Army BFA.
Day 1: Full beep test then run 4 x 400m with 1-minute rests. Push-ups/sit-ups 50% by 8 sets throughout the day
Day 2: Full beep test then run levels 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 with 1-minute rests in between levels, do this twice. Push-ups/sit-ups 70% x 5 sets throughout the day
Day 3: Beep test to level 4.1 then levels 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 with 45-second rests. Then run 2km. Push-ups/sit-ups 100% x 3 sets throughout the day
Day 4: Rest
This cycle repeats twice more with increasing intensity and is then followed by two days of rest before the test.
With the BFA program we are going to do two sessions of running a day.
Day 1: AM 4km run. PM 4 x 400m intervals with 1-minute rests – push-ups/sit-ups 50% x 8 sets
Day 2: AM 2.4km run. PM 3 x 800m intervals with 2-minute rests – push-ups/sit-ups 70% x 6 sets
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: AM 5km run. PM 6 x 400m with 45-second rests – push-ups/sit-ups
70% x 6 sets
Day 5: AM 2.4km run. PM 2 x 1.2km run with 3-minute rests – push-ups/sit-ups 100% x 3 sets
Day 6: Rest
Hopefully that will get you by in an emergency. But, staying fitter than the basics is always a better bet.