Am I Fitter Than This 5th Grader?

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I’ve been at this for about a decade now: pushing out the idea that the only way people will ever pursue fitness permanently is if it is enjoyable – a concept that seems like fantasy or the musings of someone who already loves exercise and is out of touch with those who don’t.

I accept that traditional fitness will never appeal to many people and given how abstract it is, that makes a kind of sense. 

For some reason, my mind began wandering back to when I was in elementary school and was annually taking the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. And it got me wondering, how would I do on the test now, at age 52, compared to how I did back in my, uh, “Rocky Skywalker” days of the photo above? 

I don’t remember specifically how I did in each aspect of the test. But I do remember not getting the award. You needed to be in the 85th percentile in all 6 of the exercises (see below).  The only thing I remember is the pull-ups were an epic fail. I either did one or zero pull-ups and you need 6 to meet the criteria.

As you can see from the photo here, I had neither the muscles of Rocky Balboa nor the powers of the Force to aid me like Luke Skywalker. 

I got curious how I would do now.  For the first time in nearly 40 years, I put myself through the test.  Here’s the test protocol followed by how I did (and I’ll get to the point about what this means for fitness and fun):

  1. One-Mile Run in less than 7:57
  2. Shuttle Run: 10-meter run, back-and-forth between cones, four times in 10.3 seconds.
  3. Sit-and-Reach: 30 cm (if you’re really curious and don’t already know, search and you can find it)
  4. Curl-Up (aka, Sit-Up): 45 reps in less than one minute
  5. Pull-Up: 6 reps in one minute
  6. Push-Up: At least 14 in one minute

And here’s how I did:

  1. Mile run: 7:28
  2. Shuttle run: 9.7 seconds
  3. Sit-and-Reach: 32 cm
  4. Curl-Up: 50 in one minute (I set a minute timer and stopped when it went off)
  5. Pull-Up: 6 reps in 10 seconds
  6. Push-Up: 14 reps in 13 seconds
    (For these last two, since I remember struggling to meet the goal number in the full minute, I stopped timing when I hit the target number.)
The patch you got if you passed the test.

I finally qualified for the Award! But it is now meaningless to me (as it mostly was back then.)  Here’s where I get to the point of making fitness fun.

I hadn’t heard of the test until I was told about it the first year we had to do it in school.  It was embarrassing to not be able to do the pull-ups (again, that’s all I remember for sure), but I remember wanting that patch and to not embarrass myself in front of my school mates.  But, I didn’t really care about any of it.

As you can see from my 5th grade self in the photo, “fitness” was meaningless to me. However, I was fit (enough.) I played outside ceaselessly climbing trees, playing games like tag and king-of-the-hill, running through sprinklers, building snow forts, etc.  All that stuff was fun and it’s all I cared to do.  I never “worked out” but I exercised nearly every day outside with my friends.  It was my happy place. 

Fitness is the freedom to do fun things with the people/pets you love.  It has always been for me and hopefully it will always be so for you.

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