When it comes to WHY you work out the reasons are varied. From health reasons, performing better in sports, and saving lives in tactical professions, we all have a WHY we train hard near daily. But WHAT workout or event is it that you use to measure your training and abilities? What workout or level of fitness must you maintain for you to feel acceptable with your personal fitness goals?
Here is a list of many standards that hard-charging military, police, firefighters, and equally tough civilians use as their benchmark of fitness.
What is YOUR Standard?
1. The Classic PT Pyramid – Many people who read this column, as well as myself, will attest that if you can do a 1-10-1 Pullup, Pushups, Sit-ups, Dips Pyramid in a respectable time and complete the full pyramid without "too much" of a challenge or ANY cheating, that is a good standard of performance for PT Tests. Overall ability in the cardio events that follow this "test" is another way to add more of a challenge to the PT Test challenge with 1.5, 2, or 3 mile timed runs afterword.
2. 1000 Pound Club – If you have a foundation in power lifting or are striving to reach a respectable benchmark in overall strength, the 1000 Pound Club is a good goal. The three lifts are Bench Press, Squats, and Deadlifts. Add the total 1 rep max (1RM) of each of the lifts and if you are over 1000 pounds - you win! For instance, a 300 pound bench press, a 400 pound deadlift, and a 300 pound squat will get you to the 1000 pound club. These are far from world class numbers, but you are reaching the respectable zone with your strength foundation if you are in this zone or better. Many with weight lifting goals have certain standards for their favorite lifts. Some common ones are bodyweight (BW) or 1.5 BW bench press for 1 rep plus, 2xBW deadlift, BW squats for 15-20 repetitions, and of course the classic Pro Football Bench test of 225 pounds for max reps -- striving for double digits.
3. Events – Signing up for an event is a great way to stay motivated to train as well as test your training level with your performance in events like a GO-Ruck, a Mud Run, a Bone Frog Race, or even a 10km or half marathon. Being able to perform at these type of events brings a certain level of standards of fitness you must maintain and build up to in order to compete in any of these events. Keep challenging yourself and the needle on the gauge of fitness standards will keep on moving in the right direction for you. These events can also help you see your weaknesses as well as your ability to be a good team player. Many people's first event can be seriously humbling experience and you realize you would not have completed except for your team. Then you challenge to lead by example for the following events.
4. A Random Gut Check – Being able to perform a challenging workout just because it is your birthday, a Memorial Day workout for a Fallen Hero (like the Murph), or a challenge laid down by a friend, is reason enough to stay strong and capable with a diverse set of training programs. Doing workouts that focus on all elements of fitness – speed, agility, endurance, strength, power, muscle stamina, flexibility and mobility will keep you ready and able to run the gauntlet when it is dropped. Many responded with one of the toughest CrossFit Workouts called the Kalsu.
5. Fighting and Moving – Some people go a little more hardcore -- especially depending on their job and training history. Being able to fight in martial arts tournaments, engage in self-defense, or a specific movement like a chest kick to an attacker or a perform choke hold when on the ground are solid goals for maintaining a higher level of fitness standards.
6. Just Living and Doing Physical Things – Many people do as many different things as they can like backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, hiking, lifting, chopping wood, shoveling snow, moving lumber, and more. Just living! Ask yourself, "Can I climb up things or over things with ease, can I run a 6:30 mile, sub 25 min 5k, and can I help someone move their furniture up from one home to another (and that includes moving it up staircases)?" Get out, go hard, and enjoy it all because it's good living!
7. Combination Cardio and Strength Standards - Many do Olympic distance Triathlons as a way to track cardiovascular endurance and stamina. But if you add in a strength standard then you can have well-rounded performance goals. Add in 1RM bench, squat, and deadlift to assess strength, or just do your bodyweight for max repetitions of the lifts. 8. Getting in Open Water Events – A 2000m or more open water swim is still a good benchmark for many. Why? It reminds many of the yards in a pool when they were younger competitive swimmers that were easy then and as an adult validates that "I've still got it" despite the amount of life that gets in the way.
9. The Military Fitness Test – Easily the most popular method of personal marking your fitness levels is any of the standard fitness tests and reaching passing to above average standards. Many retired military and veterans alike push themselves to meet the standards of their former profession. One of my personal markers is getting competitive scores on the Navy BUD/S PST for candidates attempting SEAL training: 500yds swim, Push-ups, Sit-ups, Pull-ups, and 1.5 mile run. Classic!
10. Mental Toughness and Resilience for REAL Life Stress – (from former Navy SEAL, cancer survivor, with double lung transplant) One aspect of physical fitness that a lot forget is building mental resilience and confidence that you can endure uncomfortable situations and survive. The most integral part of my workout is discomfort. Working out in discomfort keeps me confident in my ability to calmly think and push my way through the next crisis. I have them almost every other year and just had one 6 weeks ago. Severe trouble breathing for 3 hours on day 2 of an ICU stay. I got through severe distress calmly and figured out the problem for the doctors to get better. It was because I am comfortable with being uncomfortable because I do it all the time in my workouts.
Keep it up and searching every decade of your life a challenging benchmark to keep you motivated and moving.