How to Get Ready for Timed Runs: Beginner Guide

Marines with Headquarters Battalion participate in a three-mile physical training run along the Physical Fitness Test track at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, on April 4, 2014. Cpl. Ali Azimi/Marine Corps
Marines with Headquarters Battalion participate in a three-mile physical training run along the Physical Fitness Test track at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, on April 4, 2014. Cpl. Ali Azimi/Marine Corps

Sometimes a running test due date comes quickly, especially if you have been nursing injuries, trying to lose weight or just trying to prepare while also getting shape in general. Here is a great question from a former Navy guy trying to prepare for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The test is the same as the current FBI fitness test.

Stew -- I just saw your video on preparing for the FBI and DEA test with Jeff Nichols. Great video, thanks. I recently lost 36 lbs., so I'm a little slow at running as I got injured after the Navy (four years). I have been mostly dieting and doing non-impact cardio and resistance training.

I have a fitness test in a month and another a few months later. I'm trying to get two minutes off of my 1.5 mile run. I started the workout in your DEA test prep article and tried setting my goal at 13:30 (1.5 mile run), and did six quarter mile runs at 2:15. I got pretty winded after the third set, so I wanted to ask: should rest more in between sets. Do you have any other helpful tips?

If you are setting a goal for a 1.5 mile timed run at 13:30, you need to consider yourself a beginner and not spend too much time (mileage) running to just run. Run with a purpose, but limit your distance to 1-2 miles a day, but make them worth the effort. There is no need to go and run 4-5 miles at a slow distance right now. You'll only hurt yourself running too much. In fact on some days, I would recommend not running at all and doing hard bike workouts to work the lungs and the legs without the impact of running.

As you lose more weight, running will get easier for you, but you have to progress logically. Too many people jump right where they left off before injury and wind up injured or, if they are lucky, just discouraged. Avoid injury and being discouraged by trying a plan like this:

(Note: If you are going to follow any book workout, article workout, etc., you have to personalize it to you or face either it being too hard or too easy. Add or subtract mileage according to your abilities.)

Let's take what you have built and create a better running foundation for you. Keep doing what you are doing, but if you feel you are running too much try starting at a beginner foundation distance each with a steady progression, or take a day off of running and replace with the bike pyramid or tabata interval workout (listed below) in place of running that day.

For beginners: My suggestion is to start on a beginner running plan if you need to after lay off or recovery from injury. Any day you feel pain replace your run with bike.

Week 1: 1 mile a day five times a week (mix in a sprint day and goal pace running day etc)

Week 2: 1.25 miles a day five times a week

Week 3: Some people take off running this week to avoid the week three overuse injury. Just bike or elliptical and maybe one test day to see where you are on your timed run event.

Week 4: 1.5 miles a day five times a week (mix goal pace with intervals and steady runs)

Week 5: 1.75 miles a day five to six days a week (goal paced and intervals)

After the above base you may be ready to get up to 10 miles a week.

I know the above does not apply to you as you only have five weeks, but I would focus on goal paced running and intervals alternating each day with a few no-run rest days thrown into the week.

Maybe try the following:

Monday: Run goal pace -- timed run event 1.5 to 2 miles total

Tuesday: Sprint Intervals of 400 meters or smaller distances for 1.5 to 2 miles total

Wednesday: No running. Do Bike Pyramid and Tabata Interval

Thursday: Run goal Pace, 6-8 x 400 meter runs at goal mile pace for timed runs

Friday: Run faster than goal pace, 6-8 x 400 meter runs faster than goal pace with longer rests if needed.

Saturday: Run goal pace, timed run event 1.5 to 2 miles total

Sunday: Day off or mobility day


The goal with this type of running schedule is to quickly get you in timed running shape. After this you can go onto a more progressive running plan and build up mileage that you will need when attending the FBI or DEA Academy.

Bike Pyramid and Tabata Interval Non-Impact Workouts

You can either end a workout day with a bike pyramid or tabata interval, or replace a running day with it if you feel the need to lay off running due to shin pain, foot pain, knee pain, etc.

Bike Pyramid Workout: On a bike that allows for increasing resistance, start off at level one for one minute. Then, increase resistance 1-2 levels per minute on the minute. Keep the RPMs of the bike at 70-90 rpm. Once you are unable to peddle in the range, stop and rest 1 minute, then repeat in reverse order making each minute easier on the minute until you get to where you started. This one takes typically 20 minutes if you increase by 2 levels each minute.

Tabata Interval on bike, elliptical or rower: Try 15 to 20 minutes total time of doing 20 seconds sprint and 10 seconds each. Take an easy minute after every five minutes of intervals (20 to 10 seconds) if needed.

You can also see these other articles for a variety of running workouts and strategies during the week:

Finally, here is an article to help with some of the test taking techniques needed for the FBI and DEA Fitness Test.

Show Full Article