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Pacing Skills For Better PST Scores - Strategy 101

stew smith

Pacing Skills For Better PST Scores - Strategy 101

Do You Want a Better PFT Score? Statistically speaking, for most people, the issue is pacing and conditioning / technique.  Whether it is running or swimming, these two cardio events require three things to perform optimally – technique, conditioning, and pacing strategy.  Here is a question from a special ops candidate who has to do both the 500m swim and the 1.5 mile timed run in his fitness test:

Stew, I think my biggest thing with my running and swimming is simply learning to pace myself. I'm sure you see it all the time with guys and their PST scores, where they just come blaring out of the gate. I've got to fix the same thing with my non-fin swimming where I learn the right amount to hold back in the beginning. Fin swimming is good to go, can maintain pace for distance with a pretty calm effort, no joint or muscular stress from the jet fins afterwards to boot. Any suggestions?  Shane

Shane, good question.   Yes, I agree that first lap or two can crush your overall time if you start off too fast (timed swim or run). So, yes focus on GOAL PACE.

Creating a test taking strategy is smart, as the last thing you want to do is show up for your first fitness test with a military special ops recruiter / mentor and fail because you have never practiced it before.  Believe it or not, there are recruits who show up to a 500yd swim not knowing if they will even finish it their first time.  That is no way to have a Spec Ops job interview – you have to consider these fitness tests with recruiters/mentors as “job interviews” as they are your first entrance exam and they matter.

In order to build a strategy that works for you, you have to learn HOW to take this test by actually taking the test. You should know how it feels to run at your pace and to swim at your pace that will yield the scores you want.  You should also know that you need some more fuel by the later half of the fitness test as you tend to “run out of gas” just when you need it for the last event 1.5 mile run test.   See Nutrition for Fitness

Here is how to develop your test taking strategy by learning your pace and training for your pace with events like running and swimming.

Same Pacing Workout with Swimming:  (do this 5-6 times a week)
Warmup 500yds CSS or free style (mix is fine too) but non-stop. When you “warmup” with a 500yd or 500m swim, you are now training to make the 500m swim “nothing more than a warmup”.  This is more of a psychological benefit, but it will also get you more prepared for swimming 500m at a fast pace.

After the warmup, do the following 50/50 split workout:

Repeat 10 times
50m Swim freestyle FAST (6-8 strokes per breath)
50m NO REST go into Swim CSS – at your goal pace*.
- rest 10 seconds before starting again

*Goal pace swimming will depend on your abilities, but a good standard is a yard or meter per second. Most military swim tests are 500yds or 500m. Shoot for a yard per second and score 500 seconds which is an above average score of an 8:20.  This is good enough (actually above average) for most military programs – even special ops level swimming.

Do this swim workout 5-6 days a week - minimum standard daily is 1000-1500m PERIOD if you want to get in shape to swim 500m fast.

For running, the same type of program works but you can add in a sprint workout 1-2 times a week if you prefer, but if your conditioning is solid, focus on goal pace for a few weeks as your only running workout every day (4-5 times a week).

Running Workout #1 (2.5 miles total distance)
Run 1 mile warmup / stretch

Repeat 6 times
400m at goal mile pace (example 1:30 = 9 min 1.5 mile goal pace)
- rest with 1 minute calisthenics (squats, lunges, pushups, situps – your choice depending on upper body or lower body days) or if you want to just focus on running, rest with a 1 minute walk.

Run 1 mile cooldown / stretch – mix in a few sprints if you prefer with slow jog intervals.

Running Workout #2 (3 mile total distance)

Run 1 mile warmup / stretch

Repeat 4 times
800m at goal mile pace (ex. 3 minutes = 9 min 1.5 mile goal pace)

Run 1 mile cooldown / stretch – mix in a few sprints if you prefer with slow jog intervals.

More Pacing Ideas:
Drop mile pace
Situps Test is also a pacing drill

Send me an email and I may post it up as an article next week. You can contact me at


The Heroes of Tomorrow program was developed by former Navy SEAL Stew Smith, fitness author.  We can help prepare you for ANY profession that requires a Physical Fitness Test and YOU pay nothing for the training!  Warning - it is rather advanced but we can scale it back a bit and teach running and swimming techniques and help you build up to your goal level of fitness.



Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week

Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  Do not skip lifting in your year of training prep.  However, if you are coming from a powerlifting / football background, supplementing a few lifts into your endurance / muscle stamina focus plan is something you may enjoy especially if training for a year or more during your prep phase. 

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

Tactical Fitness - At the core of this program is the Tactical Fitness Test which measures 12 standards for your physical capacity, including: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, muscle coordination, and stamina. Tactical fitness means having the skills needed to save lives and extend the limits of your endurance whether you are in the military, police, firefighting professions, or just an everyday hero. Also featured in the Tactical Fitness Test called the Dirty Dozen.

Tactical Strength - Tactical Strength is the lifting program used by Stew Smith and his Military, Police, Fire Fighter fitness program called the Heroes of Tomorrow. It is designed to build strength in the upper body, legs, and core to prepare you better for any load bearing activity (rucking, boat carry, log PT, etc). The program also does not neglect cardiovascular activity and will end workouts with rucking or swimming (or other non impact options (row, bike, elliptical) if needed. The cardio workouts will be quick and fast focusing more on speed and agility than long slow distance. We also use the Tactical Strength Test to test elements of speed, agility, and strength / power.

Tactical Mobility is a comprehensive fitness guide for greater mobility, flexibility, and performance—designed for the men and women serving in military, special ops, law enforcement, emergency services. Tactical Mobility is a perfect fit for any fitness program as a stand alone "Mobility day" supplemented into your regular routine and will help you reach the pain free level of fitness. Gaining flexibility and mobility is the goal of the program and it will help with performance and help reduce injuries.

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

and many more options as well as personalized training programs member's only program and the new :



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