7 Tips on Dealing with PFT Anxiety

Marine officer candidates complete physical fitness test.
Marine officer candidates from Charlie and Delta Company attending Officer Candidate Class-220 complete their initial physical fitness test at Brown Field aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., on Jan. 20, 2016. (Cpl. Patrick H. Ownes/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Anxiety is prevalent in our world. It occurs at home, work, social situations, playing sports and test-taking. Academic testing anxiety is very similar to physical test-taking anxiety. I know before taking a chemistry test at the Naval Academy, I felt the same when I took the Navy SEAL physical fitness test. Those symptoms were headaches, nausea, feeling too hot or too cold, etc. The adrenaline flows through your body before any of these events and can affect your performance adversely.

In regard to the physical fitness test, the ways to combat anxiety are similar to those of academic testing-taking anxiety. The PFT anxiety-removing techniques are as follows:

1. Be well-prepared for the test

Do not start "studying" (exercising) for the PFT a week or two before the test. Fitness is a daily habit that needs to be developed 4-6 times a week (see article archive for ideas).

2. Test yourself; take the PFT once a week

It is the stopwatch that causes most of your anxiety, so train with the stopwatch when doing push-ups, sit-ups, running, etc. 

3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Eat more fruits and vegetables than fast foods, sleep regular hours, drink more water and exercise 4-6 times per week.

4. PFT-taking meals

On the evening before the PFT, drink water, eat more fruits and vegetables, and lean forms of protein like fish and chicken. Pasta is a prerace favorite among runners and swimmers. On the morning of the test, eat fruits like apples, bananas or baby carrots -- all high on the glycemic index, and they provide blood sugar for immediate energy. (See Food Pyramid article).

5. Test the way you train

Do not do something for the first time on test-taking day, like eat a protein bar or energy drink. Find out what works for you during your practice tests.

6. Relax

Take deep breaths before the stopwatch starts and think positively.

7. Treat yourself

Give yourself a reward if you reach your training goals.

Once you arrive to your test well-prepared, the PFT becomes "just another workout," and the only anxiety you will feel is a healthy dose of adrenaline that enables you to compete with your counterparts. This healthy dose is similar to competing in a 10K race.

Other related boot-camp articles

Fit to Serve?

Prepare Yourself for Boot Camp

No Weights at Boot Camp

Training for Boot Camp

Pre-Boot Camp Training

Next step: If you are considering joining the military, your next step should be to speak to a recruiter from the service of your choice.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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