Boot Camp Class vs. The Real Thing
Boot camp classes aren't for sissies: Surviving the mix of calisthenics, kick-boxing, and various athletic drills takes a fairly high degree of fitness and an inexplicable love of drill sergeant-style instruction.
But would a boot-camp level of fitness truly stack up if you were trying to get through an actual boot camp to meet the physical requirements of say, the Army? To achieve the highest-ranking scores on the physical fitness test for the U.S. Army, male recruits ages 37 to 41 are required to do at least 73 continuous, full push-ups; 76 continuous, full sit-ups; and run 2 miles in 13 minutes and 36 seconds. Female recruits must do 45 honest-to-goodness military push-ups; the same number of sit-ups as the guys; and run a 2-mile course in 15 minutes and 56 seconds – just under eight minutes a mile.
You might be able to do this. But remember, in a boot camp class you probably get away with cheating your push-ups a bit. Maybe you don't bend your arms completely or perhaps you stick your butt up in the air to make them easier. In many classes you do crunches instead of full sit-ups or, if you do sit all the way up, someone locks your feet down for leverage.
No such luck on the actual Army test. Any rep less than perfect isn't counted.
Still, that's nothing compared to what's expected of Navy Seals. To meet their competitive standards, you've got to swim 500 yards in under eight minutes. You're expected to do between 80 and 100 pushups and sit-ups in under two minutes. Pull-ups are part of their core fitness competency; there's no time limit but you've got to do 10 to meet minimum requirements and 15 to 20 to qualify as competitive. You're also expected to run a mile-and-a-half no slower than 10 minutes and 30 seconds. The catch? You've got to do it while wearing fatigues and work boots.
As of now, Seals don't accept women so these standards only apply to men. However, women can become firefighters in most communities if they can pass the testing requirements. Understandably, the physical qualifications are the exactly the same for both sexes. And they're especially tough.
To become a firefighter in San Antonio, Texas, candidates must pass the Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT). The test includes a 3-minute stair climb at a rate of 60 steps per minute while wearing 12.5 pounds on each shoulder, after which the weights are removed and you walk an additional 85 feet to the next event--which usually involves dragging 200 feet of hose 75 feet, making a 90-degree turn around a cone and dragging the hose another 25 feet. Then you go on to complete several iterations of ladder lifts, forcible entries, and a task called "the breach and pull," which requires opening a heavy hinged door built into the ceiling by lifting a large metal poll and balancing it long enough to hook into the latch of the door.
Does your boot camp class prepare you for that?
In case you aren't sufficiently humbled, let's see how you'd measure up to the standards of the United States Gymnastics Association's Talent Opportunity Program (TOPs): One of the many skills on the test is known as a handstand press. To do it, you sit on the ground with your palms placed flat on the floor between straddled legs, and then press your body off the floor into a handstand. Once in a perfectly straight handstand, the candidate must slowly and with control lower back to the start. You must do a minimum of five reps to pass the test.
Oh, did I mention this is the test for 7-year-old girls?
Do you take boot camp classes? How tough are they? Have you done military basic training or boot camp?
— Liz Neporent, Fitness Reporter
Veteran fitness and health writer Liz Neporent is the co-author of Fitness for Dummies, Weight Training for Dummies, The Winner's Brain, and the just-released The Thin in 10 Weight-Loss Plan. When not pounding the pavement or pumping iron — or thinking deep thoughts about health and fitness for her latest writing project — Liz can be found hanging out with her hubby and daughter in New York City or upstate New York.