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Crush the PST / IFT: The Importance of PACE

Stew smith

The Most Needed PT Test Taking Strategy:  PACE

When taking fitness tests often people who do not have a strategy will push 100% effort and burn out in the time limit or distance of running or swimming.  Where you see this the most is in the swim (USN 500yds / AF 500m), the timed run (1.5 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile), and situps. Yes even situps. Though situps are slowly going away and being replaced with plank pose for the regular military fitness test, many of the spec ops communities still use the situps for 2 minutes as part of their entry level or advanced selection / assessment fitness test. Here are some of the most common ways people fail these tests and answers to preparing to be in better conditioning so you can maintain a fast pace in swimming, running, and situps. 

PACE - It is THAT Important

If you do not know how to maintain your pace for a certain distance or time, you have not trained enough to score well on these tests. It is true you want to "do your best" but with 2 minute tests like situps, longer running, and swimming, you will not do your best UNLESS you know how to find and maintain your GOAL PACE. That means practice the pace and get in shape to maintain that pace for how long you need to. 

Situps - PACE

Situps -Starting with situps, most people fail to meet the standards due to starting out way too fast in the first 30 seconds of a 2-minute test.  For programs that test a 1-minute test, it is easier to go all out for a minute than it is for two minutes. Some groups even test 3 minutes which requires even MORE pace adherence. 

Has this ever happened to you in a two-minute situps/crunches test? 

You start out fast and get 30-35 situps in the first 30 seconds but fail to get 30 situps in the next 1:30 and only receive a score of 55-60 situps in two minutes.  This is simply because you started out too fast. I have tested people on back-to-back days after watching people fail the situps test with 60 situps in 2 minutes and getting 80 situps in two minutes the next day. This pacing technique did not make that person stronger - it made that person smarter.  Here is how you do it:

- Practice getting 20 situps in 30 seconds (or 25 situps in 30 seconds if goal is 100) and work on that pace. You should be adding 30 seconds sets of 20 situps until that gets easy, then expand that same pace to 1 minute. You can work other exercises as well to work the hip flexors, such as flutter kicks, leg levers, or hanging knee ups. 

Related articles:  Improve Situps Quickly

Three Favorite Workouts to Crush Calisthenics Fitness Tests

Swimming PACE (and technique)

Swimming for Time / Distance - Swimming is all technique and conditioning.  First you have to learn how to swim the required underwater recovery strokes (side stroke, combat swimmer stroke, or breast stroke). The best way to test to see if you know how to do the strokes properly is to be able to swim 50yds in 50-54 seconds efficiently - not as a sprint. This pace will yield a 8:20-9:00 zone. Once you can do this (25yds in 5-7 strokes), you are ready to now get into swimming shape as the other half of this is conditioning.

THe 50-50 Workout has been doing an excellent job over the past year as I recently developed this to see if I can get some people from 10 minute swim to and 8 minute swim in less than a month.  It worked BUT it takes near daily swimming to get into swimming shape.  See the 50-50 CSS / FREE workout.

Do this 5 times a week

Now, the final piece of strategy is you being able to start and finish on your goal pace.  IF you can get a yard or meter per second great. That is a great standard if you want to be in the top 20% of your spec ops selection class (you do if you have an 80% attrition rate). My personal minimum standard for myself and the people who train with me is a 50 yds or 50m in 50 seconds. The 500yd / 500m test is 500 seconds or an 8:20. The math is easy - 100yds = 100 seconds (1:40), 200yds = 200 seconds (3:20), a 300 yd swim = 300 seconds or 5 minutes. Building up to 300yds or 300m in 5 minutes (or in that ball park) will set you up on a solid time. Once again, this is ALL ABOUT PACING and feeling the pace, muscle memorize the pace, breathing the pace and being efficient with the glide phase of the stroke. PS - if you like the 50-50, you will "love" the 100-100 progression. 

Related ArticlesTwo Most Important Skills for the CSS

The Combat Swimmer Stroke (CSS) One Stop Shop

Dude Your Are Not in Swimming Shape

Social Media CSS Critiques  - Instagram    Youtube   TikTok - Get live and saved CSS critiques using these social media platforms. 

Running (Pace) 

Have you ever started a timed run of a 1.5 or longer and the first lap you went way too fast? Many people start out on a near 5 minute pace (80 second 400m) and wind up getting slower than a 7 minute pace by the end of the 6 laps (1.5 mile run).  This is similar to the situp issue above - start out too fast and burn out on the back half of the distance timed.  A goal pace can be determined by reducing the current pace by a minute and set your training accordingly.  For instance:

If you run an 8 minute mile pace for 1.5 mile timed run, your time is 12 minutes.  Setting a goal pace of a 7 minute mile pace is an acceptable challenge, but you need to start learning HOW to run at that pace.  We do this by a series of workouts that help you "FEEL" the pace when running shorter distances of 400 and 800m at first - resting a short period in between.  So, if you run an 8 minute mile now, set your times for the following runs at a 7 minute mile pace:

Repeat 6-8 times (1-2 times a week)
Run 400m at goal pace (1:45 = 7 min pace)
- walk 100m (or limit rest to 50% of time it took to run) 

Also later in the week, try the following:

Repeat 3-4 miles (1 -2 times a week)
Run 800m at goal pace (3:30 = 7 min pace)
- walk 200m (or limit rest to 50% of the time it took to run)
*if you need more time to recover, take it at first, but the goal is to be able to recover quickly as eventually you will be running this pace non-stop for your timed run distance. 

Learning the pace at which you need to run (or swim or situps for that matter) is a way to help you get the numbers you seek quickly. Of course, you can add in more running workouts such as sprint / jog intervals and even longer slower distance to build a base if you need to.  You can also build a base with non-impact cardio options (row, bike, elliptical, swimming) if the amount of running gets too much for you as you begin a running plan.  Here are two articles to help with building up your running miles per week as well as focus on spec ops level pacing:

Avoid Injury Running Plans

Running Plan to Get TO and THROUGH Selection

PFT Transition - Learn How to Get Ready for the Run (after high rep cals)

Pullups and Pushups

These are NOT pacing exercises but they take similar amounts of practice to build up the muscle stamina to crush these favorite exercises of calisthenics. 

See Two Week Protocol if stuck on pullups, situps, or pushups. 

Classic Workouts to Help

There is More To than You May Know

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


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Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

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If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
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Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


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