How Assessing Your Fitness Can Save Your Life or Those You Love

Army 2nd Lt. Myeongeun Chong carries 2nd Lt. Jesenia Maldonado toward the starting point during the Maneuver Under Fire event of the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test (Photo Credit: Joan Vasey).

Whether you are a civilian, active duty, or a candidate preparing for military, police, or fire fighter training, there are some valuable skills you learn and abilities you maintain when you test yourself regularly with some form a fitness test. 

This does not have to be a normal PT test of pushups, situps, and a run. But assessing your abilities on a regular basis using a variety of methods can help you one day, when needed, to save yourself, your family, your teammates, or other victims from bad things that can happen either natural or manmade. 

Take for instance on the job dangers that occur for the tactical professional, being fit is a prerequisite to obtain a job as a military person, police officer, and fire fighter, but maintaining it is often not enforced to the degree that is helpful. 

If you are a candidate seeking employment in the tactical professions, the testing, training preparation alone will help you obtain a higher that average level of fitness. And, if you are a civilian, just the recent natural disasters of storms, floods, or fires alone should make you realize that there are two types of people you see in rescue situations – those that can help and those than need help saving themselves. The Fitness Test Dilemma

By no means is training solely for a fitness test a way to go. There are times in training cycles where you should focus on passing to above average scores by doing the specifics of what is asked of you on tests that enable you to obtain a job or maintain a job in good standing. Where many people make the mistake is training for the lowest levels to pass a test – only training for a few weeks a year to achieve those scores.

Minimal standards on typical fitness tests basically determine that you are healthy enough to wear a uniform, but have little to do with your abilities to be a good soldier, police officer, or fire fighter.

Higher levels of fitness however will improve your chances of helping yourself and/or others when in a desperate situation; though at the same time higher fitness levels are not the only determining factor to being a good soldier, police officer or fire fighter.  

From grip strength, arm and leg strength, running speed, swimming abilities, to lower back strength, and load bearing carrying ability all are critical skills and abilities WE all must have to not just help ourselves, but to help others like your family if need be.   

Tips to Assessing Your Tactical Abilities

Here are some ways to incorporate testing elements into your regular workout routine:

During the Run – If you are using running as a cardio event for your workouts or for your testing protocol, try to mix in some timed runs distances (1 mile, 1.5 mile, shuttle runs, 400m sprints). From longer distanced timed runs to shorter sprints with some agility training, these will help you maintain needed speed and endurance for events like running from danger (people, rising water, fires, etc).  These timed assessments can help you determine whether or not you need to up your game with future workouts for speed or endurance. Are you out of running shape?

Cooldown with swimming / pool skills – Getting in the pool at the end of a workout can be quite refreshing. Practicing the ability to swim, tread, float are also good skills to have in case you have to help people or yourself in flooding or accidental swimming situations. If you need lessons, get them.  Being ineffective on 75% of the Earth is no way to go. Swimming is a survival skill.  Can you swim?

Lift Body weight or lift and drag / push others – Being able to lift your bodyweight from the ground (dead lifts) to over your head (pullups / push press) either pushing or pulling is a critical skill to get up and over obstacles to safety. 

Carrying heavy objects like sandbags, walking with dumbbells can build stronger leg, back and grip to get the task done when carrying a stretcher or someone over your shoulder.  They do not call it the fireman carry for nothing – those of you in that business need to practice that movement. Also dragging or pushing sleds, sandbags, or people while crawling or standing is a tactical movement that saves lives and requires significant grip, core, and full body strength. 

Having a program of lifting weights and flipping tires can also help you develop this type of strength and ability.  Can you carry your own weight?  Others?

Higher Repetition Testing – Calisthenics – Sometimes saving yourself or other means high repetition movements of carrying or lifting light weight. Higher repetition calisthenics testing elements can help you maintain and develop the muscle stamina needed for long hours of live saving work in a day if needed.  Can you PT?

Keep performance high and body fat low – As we age outworking your diet becomes an impossibility. Gaining too much weight year after year has a way of affecting job performance if you do not stay on top of both your food intake and your fitness output.  For the Tactical Athlete – check out Tactical Fitness – it has a 12 event fitness test called the Dirty Dozen.  For the person over 40, check out Tactical Fitness For the Athlete Over 40 for ways to incorporate more mobility and longevity to your training.  Even for the civilian, Tactical Fitness or a program like the PFT Bible is ideal to getting started with training that can one day save your life or the lives of others around you.

Related Articles for Training To and Through Training Operator Grip Mobility Day Off – Longevity and No Pain Classic Week of PT / Cardio Tactical Fitness – Regular Fitness Comparisons

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