3 Ways to Run the POPAT Stairs

In a previous post, I covered 3 Ways to run the PARE stairs.

For anyone in the process with a municipal force that uses the POPAT, you’ll know that running the POPAT stairs is a little different than the PARE. For one, there’s 6 steps for the POPAT compared to the PARE’s 5 steps. That extra step makes a big difference.

But like the PARE, I generally find there are 3 ways to tackle the POPAT stairs, and they’re not so dissimilar as the PARE:


You can take every single step, you can skip steps, or you can go for the bare minimum (of at least one step up, top step, and one step down).

Due to the nature of the POPAT and its greater challenge, you need to be strategic with your approach to the stairs. Conserving energy on the course for the POPAT becomes much more important compared to the PARE. I find this is largely due to the stricter rules of the machine (this may depend where you test), and having the 3 foot vault as a separate station at the end rather than part of the course.

To ensure you conserve the most energy, taking every step will do the job. Yes, it is slower, but if it means not gassing out for the machine and the vault, then I’d go with that method.

If you feel you have a good level of cardio fitness, and you got your pacing down pat, you can skip a few steps on the way up and on the way down. Although skipping steps does take more energy than going every step, it can save you some time. You’ll have to experiment with what works best.

If you decide to go for the bare minimum, keep in mind this takes a lot more energy to perform. Like I said, that extra step makes a difference, and it becomes that much more noticeable when going for the bare minimum. I only suggest this method for the high level athletes in the crowd.

What do I consider high level? It’s subjective, but if you’ve competed at the varsity level in school, or played in competitive rec leagues, I’d consider you a high level athlete. Another way to look at it is if you can run 400m (one lap of a track) all out in less than 1:10, you’ll likely get away with the bare minimum method for the stairs.

Whenever you’re at your next practice test, test out the methods you feel will work best for you for all 6 laps. If you’re not in an area that offers practice tests, you can always try these methods on good ol fashioned stairs. Or course it’s not exactly the same (how many stairs are designed like the one in the test?), but it’s better than nothing.

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