Personal Markers in Fitness Achievement

Marines demonstrate ground fighting techniques.
Sgt. Nick J. Bidlack, right, demonstrates ground fighting techniques during a martial arts exchange at Baengnyeongdo, Republic of Korea, Sept. 8, 2015. (LCpl. Steven Tran/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

We all have a reason we train hard near daily, but what workout or event do 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.

1. The Classic PT Pyramid: If you can do a 1-10-1 pull-ups, push-ups, 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 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 a 1.5-, two- or three-mile timed run afterward.  

2. 1,000-Pound Club: If you have a foundation in power lifting or are striving to reach a respectable benchmark in overall strength, the 1,000-Pound Club is a good goal. The three lifts are bench press, squats and deadlifts. Add the total one-rep max (1RM) of each lift, and if you are more than 1,000 pounds, you win.

For instance, a 300-pound bench press, a 400-pound deadlift, and a 300-pound squat will get you to the 1,000-Pound Club. These are far from world-class numbers, but you have built a respectable strength foundation if you are in this zone or better. Many with weightlifting goals have certain standards for their favorite lifts. Some common ones are body weight (BW) or 1.5x BW bench press for one rep plus, 2x BW deadlift, BW squats for 15-20 repetitions and 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 10-kilometer run or half marathon. These types of events bring a certain standard of fitness you must maintain and build in order to compete in them. Keep challenging yourself, and the needle on the gauge of fitness standards will keep on moving in the right direction. These events can help you see your weaknesses, as well as your ability to be a good team player. Many people's first event can be a  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: Performing a challenging workout just because it is your birthday, a Memorial Day workout for a fallen hero (like the Murph) or a challenge from 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 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. Fighting in martial arts tournaments, engaging in self-defense or a specific movement, like a chest kick to an attacker or a perform chokehold 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-minute 5K, and can I help someone move their furniture 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 body weight for max repetitions of the lifts.

8. Open-water events: A 2,000-meter 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. It also 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 personally marking your fitness levels is any of the standard fitness tests and reaching passing to above-average standards. Many retired military and veterans push themselves to meet the standards of their former profession. One of my personal markers is getting competitive scores on the Navy BUD/S physical screening test (PST) for candidates attempting SEAL training: 500-yard swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and 1.5-mile run. Classic.

10. Mental toughness and resilience for real-life stress (from a former Navy SEAL, cancer survivor with double lung transplant recipient): 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 think calmly and push my way through the next crisis. I have them almost every other year and just had one six weeks ago. I had severe trouble breathing for three hours on day 2 of an ICU stay. I got through severe distress calmly and figured out the issue. It was because I am comfortable with being uncomfortable, because I do it all the time in my workouts.

Keep it up and search every decade of your life for a challenging benchmark to keep you motivated and moving.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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