Training for the PARE Test: Part 1 (Cardio Training)

The PARE test, which stands for Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation, is the physical test RCMP uses to evaluate the fitness and physical abilities of their officers and candidates. It is also used by CBSA and various other law enforcement agencies across Canada.

For many of you, it will be a demanding test, and will surprise you in the degree of difficulty. Do not underestimate it.

Just because you lift a few days a week, and do some running on the treadmill, doesn’t mean this test will be a cake walk.

Now, depending on which agency you’re running the PARE for, the time you must beat to pass will change. Most agencies require a 4:45 time or faster. Some may like a faster time for competitiveness. At the time of this writing, the RCMP requires a time of 5:30 or faster on your first PARE. If you fail, you have 3 days to pass it a second time. Failure to pass the second PARE will result in you being sent home. You must also complete the test before you graduate, and you must be under 4:00 (reference: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/physical-standards)

For all you RCMP candidates out there, don’t train for the bare minimum. Train for the final standard. If you know you can hit that standard before going to Depot, then physical fitness can be the least of your worries at the Academy.

For everyone else, I still suggest training for more than just the bare minimum. Why set the bar low for yourself? Give yourself the respect you deserve.

The PARE is a very demanding test, particularly on your cardiovascular system. This is why I’m starting this PARE Training series with cardio training. It’s important to not only train your cardio fitness, but to train it in a manner that will reflect the demands of the test. Part 1 of the series will delve into the cardio side of training to help you prepare for not only the test, but also for the Academy.

Now, cardio training is a pretty broad and general term. It can mean many different things, from low intensity training to high intensity training; from interval training to steady state; from running outdoors or on a treadmill, to doing circuits using bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. Whatever the case may be, you need to incorporate at least 2-3 days of some form of cardio training in your routine.

I would also suggest at least one of those sessions be some form of high intensity training, whether that be high intensity steady training (ie fast 1.5 mi (2.4 km) run) or high intensity intervals (ie 400m repeats or 30 seconds fast repeats, for several sets).

Most people will perform their cardio training through running. And I endorse that idea (although I am a little biased, coming from a running background myself). But know that it’s not the only method to achieve a high level of cardio fitness. You can develop a very high aerobic and anaerobic capacity through other means like biking, swimming, rowing, using kettlebells, using med balls, using a sled, etc. The possibilities are endless.

But I would still incorporate some form of running in your cardio training routine. Especially if you’ve applied to RCMP. There’s an expectation to run at least 15km a week at Depot, so you want to develop the capacity to run that kind of volume.

And it’s not just running volume, but adapting your body to the stresses of running. Let’s face it, running is demanding on the body, not just the cardiovascular system. The body’s connective tissues, such as the tendons, need to adapt to the strain of running. So do the muscles, ligaments, bones, and the joints.

If you’ve done little running before, or are coming off a long layoff from running, then it’s best to follow a learn to run program first to adapt to the stresses of running. It can take at least 8-12 weeks for the body to adapt, and you want to make sure the body adapts. There is no use rushing it. The last thing you want to deal with is any kind of injury (like shin splints) because you rushed it.

When you do follow a learn to run program, you may find the intensity levels aren’t very high. And that’s ok. Again, if you’ve done very little run training, you want to adapt to it gradually. If you’re short on time and do need higher intensities in your training, then get it through other means aside from running. You could perform high intensity intervals on the bike, or an airdyne, or rower, or swimming, or anything that is not impact related. I find the bike or airdyne are good alternatives to running. They’re easier alternatives to use and you can push your effort levels to a high degree.

SO WHAT DOES A CARDIO TRAINING PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?

Well, it really depends on:

  1. your current level of fitness
  2. your past training history
  3. your abilities in running, biking, swimming, etc.
  4. past or current injuries
  5. your timeline to prepare (ie 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year)

Any program written up in this post should be seen for what it is: a very general program that doesn’t take into account the above 5 points.

Does this make the post any less valuable? Not at all.

What I hope you gleam from this is some ideas to set up your own training routine, to get your creative juices flowing.

Now, you may ask is “How often should I perform cardio?” At the minimum, 2-3 workouts a week, and minimum 20-30 min each workout. This is not a hard and fast rule, and there is something to be said for short quick workouts. And depending on your fitness level, it may be low to moderate intensity if you’re just starting out, or it could be moderate to high intensity if you’re a more advanced fitness enthusiast or athlete.

Over time, you could build up to 4-6 cardio workouts a week. The number of workouts will also determine the number of high intensity workouts you’ll perform. For arguments sake, we’ll say all high intensity workouts will be performed through intervals (ie HIIT: high intensity intervals). I should also define what high intensity is. If using heart rate as a measurement of intensity, than at least 85% of your maximum heart rate would be high intensity effort.

A more universal measurement would be to use RPE, or rating of perceived exertion. This is a 10 point scale, with 1 equal to “pretty damn easy I can do this in my sleep”, and 10 equal to “that was f***in’ hard!”

Anything above 8 on the RPE would be considered high intensity. A 6-8 would be moderate intensity; 4-6 would be low to moderate intensity; anything less than 4 is very, very light work.

RPE Intensity Level
10 “That was f***in’ hard!” high intensity
9 Very, high intensity
8 High intensity
7 Moderately high intensity
6 Moderate intensity
5 Moderately low intensity
4 Low intensity
3 Very low intensity
2 Very, very low intensity
1 “I can sleep all day” low intensity

 

Although RPE is subjective, it does help you become in tune with your body. Eventually you will become better at estimating the intensity level of a workout and how much effort you put into the training.

Below are some examples of cardio training programs. A reminder, these programs are general and don’t keep in mind the 5 points mentioned earlier in this post.

This first program assumes you’ve been doing some form of consistent training for the past 2-3 months. It also assumes you have a test coming up soon and you need a quick boost in fitness to prepare.

To provide some context to the above program, Broken 400’s is a workout performed on a track. You run one lap of the track and every 100m you stop to perform 5 burpees. Skills training refers to practicing your specific test skills, such as mat jumps, hurdles, vaults, controlled falls, etc. ST stands for strength training. And Eliot Ness and MTC are two circuit style workouts using bodyweight and minimal equipment to elicit a cardio response through other means aside from running.

The following is a very basic program that can be adjusted to the beginner or to the advanced:

In the Day 1 workout (which can be a high intensity workout) we’re keeping the volume the same (ie the number of sets performed, in this case 6), but manipulating the rest time between sets. The rest will have an effect on the running speed, as the goal is to run as fast as possible, but allows you to cover the roughly the same distance for each set with the given rest time. It’s trying to teach you to pace yourself at a high intensity level, but not put all your effort on the front end of the workout.

Day 2 is meant to be a low intensity day to facilitate recovery. This could also be an excellent opportunity to work on your technique, particularly if this workout is to be done through running. The intensity is low enough to allow you to focus on running well and efficient.

Day 3 is another high intensity workout, using hills or stairs. Ideally, a hill would be better to use. Similar to Day 1, you want to cover approximately the same distance on each set (or more). If you do cover less distance, you want to minimize how much is being lost. For Day 3, the volume increases as the weeks progress.

One last program to leave you with, and this is for those who want to build up their tolerance for running. It’s is a 12 week long Walk to Run program. Not unlike other walk/run programs, this is just my version. Is it better than other walk/run programs? Truthfully, no. It follows the same basic concept. But since you’re already reading this, why not provide my own version?

There you have it, my take on cardio training for the PARE.

A reminder, this is not the be all end all to cardio training for the PARE test. This post is to help you think a little more about cardio training. I can certainly dive deeper with this, but I’ll leave that for future posts.

In the next part of the Training for the PARE Test series, I’ll cover the strength training side of things.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM PART 1:

  • Perform cardio training at minimum 2-3x/wk, and about 20-30 min each time (either steady state or intervals)
  • Use RPE (rating of perceived exertion) to gauge the intensity of the workout
  • If you can, incorporate as much running as your body can tolerate. Do be gradual how much you increase the volume and intensity of run training
  • And when you can’t use running for cardio training, find alternative means to improve your cardio fitness (biking, swimming, bodyweight circuits, etc.)

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Wanna learn more about our program? Check out the Police Fitness Training program. It’s our ongoing training program to help you prepare for your physical test and for the Academy.

If you’re a complete beginner to the tests, the IT3 Program program is for you. It’s our intro program to help you build your skills and technique for the test, giving you the confidence you need to succeed.

Looking to run a practice? Check out the PARE and POPAT Practice Test page for the next available session.

Don’t live in the Lower Mainland? I offer online coaching for those who live very far from our physical location.

And if you have any questions about training, you can reach out to me at marc@rlconditioning.ca.