How to prepare for your all-important fitness test during the three days before selection

As you prepare for your military journey, you’ll face challenges from basic fitness tests to a wide range of tactical aptitude tests, depending on the job you’re seeking. However, there is one particular moment on this journey that may be the most important test of fitness you ever undergo.

The fitness test required to enter a special program or special ops selection course is usually an event that can end your spec ops training dreams before they even begin. How should you approach the last days before the test and the day of this very challenging event?

Here is a list of tips for those of you coming up on your “start date”.

This advice could also be intended for anyone who has physically prepared for admission to a military program. The keys to that gate can only be obtained by meeting and exceeding the standards of that community. Your future depends on how you behave.

Goals can vary depending on the situation, but joining the military, staying in the military, advancing in the military, and changing careers in the military can depend on how you do on a fitness test or if you meet height and weight standards.

After preparing for this important fitness test and subsequent selection event, focus on your recovery, but don’t sit back and do nothing. There’s not much you can do to improve strength or overall fitness, but you can always practice technique, work on flexibility and mobility, and keep your lungs open with a moderate level of cardio.

How you eat, hydrate, and sleep are by far the most important things you need to focus on this week (and every other week, for that matter), but this is the week to be active in your recovery.

Research the activities that will be tested and expected of you during the event. Also understand location, weather, altitude and time zone changes. If you must travel to a new location, be aware of hot and humid summer days or cold and dry winter nights and everything in between. Make sure you prepare and stay on top of any water and electrolyte losses, as it only takes a few hours for your performance to drop when you’re dehydrated and suffering from the heat.

In many of these fitness tests and subsequent selection programs, you will be assessed on skills such as wading, swimming, obstacle courses, running (hills, sand, trails), handling and many tactical skills. If you choose to practice any event, focus on the technique and mobility needed to perform it effectively. If you had to travel to a new location, stretch and get some basic cardio (either running or non-impact cardio) under your belt to acclimate to the location.

Cardio, calisthenics and stretching

My advice is to stretch and get some cardio in the form of jogging, swimming or cycling, mixed in with smaller repetitions of the events you will be testing soon. You will find that your joints only need to work for short segments. Do five minutes of light calisthenics and stretching, followed by five minutes of cardio of your choice. Repeat that sequence for 30 minutes and you’re good to go.

You will be nervous, which is natural, but you need to work on getting a good night’s sleep every night. Read on for some sleep protocols and rituals that can help you get the sleep you need each night before this event and all other nights. Sleep is our number one tool for recovery and it’s important to be good at it. It is also good to learn some tips for getting rid of anxiety.

The last days before the big event should be calm and focused. There is no workout you can do in the previous three days that will make you stronger, faster, or more physically fit at any timed or max rep. It’s time to straighten up and use these moments to relax, mentally prepare and be well rested and well tested.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his fitness e-book store if you want to start an exercise program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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