Admiral Announces Plan to Restart Navy Fitness Tests

Sailors run on the indoor track on Fort Carson.
Sailors attached to Navy Operational Support Center Fort Carson run on the indoor track at Ivy Physical Fitness Center located on Fort Carson during the 1.5 mile run of the Physical Fitness Assessment on Oct. 20, 2019. The PFA is performed biannually by all sailors to determine their level of physical fitness and compliance with the Navy fitness standards. (Gilbert Bolibol/U.S. Navy)

When the Navy canceled this year’s fitness tests due to the coronavirus pandemic, it didn’t mean physical training was canceled, too, the chief of naval personnel said this week.

Sailors and naval officers must be ready for physical fitness assessments to resume in January -- with some new requirements. For the first time, the Navy will require planks in place of curl-ups, and will allow a rowing machine to be used in place of the run on the physical readiness test. Planks are a core-strengthening exercise in which sailors will hold a push-up-like position while their forearms rest on the ground.

“What I'll ask every sailor to do is please make sure that you are getting out there, that you're taking care of your fitness, because it is important now, with about a year under our belt of not doing the PFA, that you go ahead and get that restarted,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell said Thursday. “And the plan is in January, so please be ready.”

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The Navy announced in March that PFAs in the first half of the year would be waived over concerns about spreading COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. In July, when cases began spiking across much of the country, the fall PFA cycle was canceled, too.

Now, though, with planks replacing curl-ups and sailors getting the option to use a rowing machine in place of running, Nowell said the Navy can hold future fitness tests without requiring people to be close to one another.

With base gyms closed and unit PT curbed amid COVID-19 social distancing rules, Nowell was asked by a Japan-based lieutenant how service leaders can ensure their sailors will be successful when fitness tests start again.

The CNP acknowledged the pandemic has made things more challenging, but stressed that sailors need to be ready.

“If the base gym is not open or there's some other issues there, then [get] out walking or jogging and doing planks,” he said, adding that sailors should also focus on maintaining their stress levels during the pandemic and eating right.

“It is the responsibility of every sailor to make sure that you're concentrating on your health and fitness,” Nowell said.

The Navy hasn’t released formal scoring tables for the new plank requirement or rowing option. Nowell said this summer that scoring for the plank is expected to max out at three and a half minutes.

He said on Thursday that further details about the January PFA cycle are expected to be released soon.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Here's How the Navy's New PRT Plank Event Will Be Scored

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