How Fit Are You ?

How Fit Are You?

Firefighter FitnessBefore you begin any form of exercise, it is important that you run a couple of tests on yourself so you will know where to start.

Exercise is strenuous and we suggest that before you carry out any exercise, or are starting a regime of exercise, you contact your GP to see if the exercise we are about to discuss is right for you.

Resting Heart Rate

The first thing is to establish your resting heart rate. This is the speed at which your heart is pumping when your body is not doing anything else. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning, just after you have woken up. Remove your watch (if your wearing one!) and put it where your can see the second hand or counter. Take your left wrist in your right hand and lightly press the tips of your right index and middle fingers into the space just below your thumb. Move your fingers around until you can feel a pulsing sensation – and there you are! Once you can feel the pulse strongly, look at your watch and measure off 15 seconds while, at the same time, counting the number of beats you get from your pulse. Multiply the result by 4 and that is your resting heart rate per minute. Now compare the result with the table below.

Beats per minute
  • 100 – Unfit
  • 90
  • 75 – Average
  • 60
  • 50 – Very Fit

Women’s hearts tend to beat slightly faster than a man’s does. Women can give themselves 5 beats per minute leeway on these figures.

The beats will go down as you get fitter because your heart pumps more blood with each beat and so needs to beat less often to do the same job. Remember that the heart is a muscle, so the fitter you become, the fitter your heart will!


There are 2 ways that we assess a person’s fitness in the Fire Service

Other ways to test your fitness levels include 2 simple running exercises.

All you need are a stopwatch and a space to run in. These tests will push you to the limit, so if you have not done any exercise in a while then we strongly suggest that you check your general health with a GP before trying them.

1. Sprint Test

This test will rate your anaerobic fitness, or the level at which your muscles are able to operate without using oxygen to power them. This test is useful for checking that your weight-training programme is producing balanced results. If your test results improve over time, it means that you are making strength gains throughout your body.

The Test

Mark out 35 metres on a running surface. Complete a thorough 15 minute warm up with emphasis on running movements.

Stand in a ready position with your back leg slightly behind you and stopwatch ready to go. You can time yourself but it is preferable to get a training partner to do it.

Sprint flat out for 35 metres. Record your time and compare to the chart below.

Time Rating
  • Less than 4.8 seconds Excellent.
  • 4.8 to 5.5 seconds Good.
  • 5.6 to 6.0 seconds Average.
  • More than 6 seconds Poor.

2. The 12 Minute Run Test

This will show your aerobic fitness, or the ability of your body to use oxygen to power it while running. The score from this test can also be used to give you your approximate VO2 Max score.

The Test

Find a running track or set a treadmill to level 1 incline to mimic outdoor running. Complete a thorough 15 minute warm up.

Run as far as you can in 12 minutes. A flat out sprint will not be possible so pace yourself but push as hard as you can go. If you overdo it and have to slow down, do not stop – walking is allowed. Compare your results to the chart below.

Age: under 40
  • Over 2,700m – Excellent
  • 2,300m to 2,700m – Good.
  • 1,900m to 2,299m – Average.
  • 1,500m to 1,899m – Below Average.
  • Less than 1,500m – Poor.
Age: over 40
  • Over 2,500m – Excellent.
  • 2,100m to 2,500m – Good.
  • 1,700m to 2,099m – Average.
  • 1,500m to 1,699m – Below Average.
  • Less than 1,400m – Poor.

Testing yourself regularly is great for checking your progress and is a useful motivational tool. If you can see your scores and times improving then it spurs you on to continue to better your results.