05 Jun Training for the PARE Test: Part 3 (Tips and Tricks)
In the final part of the “Training for the PARE Test” series, I’ll cover a few tips and tricks to help you achieve a competitive time. If you haven’t checked out Part 1 (cardio training) or Part 2 (strength training), feel free to head over there now before reading Part 3.
The first, and probably most important tip, is to pace yourself on the course. Too many times have I seen applicants blast through the first 2, 3 laps, channeling their inner Usain Bolt, only to suffer so badly for the last 3 laps of the course (Don’t believe me? Watch me suffer the last half of the PARE because I tried to sprint it).
You need to stay relatively conservative on those first few laps. If it feels excruciatingly slow, that’s probably the pace you want to stick with. The intensity of the test will quickly pick up at an “easy” pace. If you pace it right, you could pick up the effort level toward the end, or at the very least for the push/pull machine.
It’s often recommended to average 25 sec per lap. A 25 sec lap means you’ll finish the course in 2:30, which gives you plenty of time to complete the push/pull. (and also assuming you still have the energy levels to do the machine). If you’re trying to be competitive, you want to average faster than 25 sec, but whether you’re averaging 20 sec or 30 sec, you still want to pace yourself.
I should note, there are a number of ways you can average 25 sec. If you do 20 sec for your first 3 laps, then 30 sec for your last 3, you’ll end up with a 25 sec average, but that means you’ve gassed yourself early, struggled for the rest of the obstacle course, and will have very little energy for the push/pull (refer again to the video above). A rule of thumb is to have no more than a 3 sec difference between your fastest lap and your slowest lap. You may get away with a 5 sec difference. More than that and the rest of the test will be more challenging than it needs to be.
If you run slower than 30 sec laps, you’re getting into the danger zone. Averaging anything over 30 sec means you will be running 3:00+ for the 6 laps, which leaves you with very little margin of error, especially if you have time penalties (although I have seen people average 35 seconds a lap and still pass, but barely).
The next tip is to get a good warm-up in before you start testing. Typically you’re given 10-15 min to warm-up and try the course and equipment. Take advantage of that time to get the heart rate elevated, to prime your nervous system, get your joints loose, and to get yourself mentally focused.
You should also try to be one of the first people to test, I’d say the first 3 or 4 people (assuming there’s no order to testing). The reason you want to be one of the first to test is:
1) You take advantage of your warm-up
2) You get testing over with
3) You don’t psych yourself out by watching a speed demon run through the test (or conversely, watch someone struggle through the test)
You’re likely going to be anxious about the test and the longer you wait the more anxious you get. If you’re not one of the first 3-4 to test, then continue to keep your body warm and loose. You don’t want to lose the effect of the warm-up. When your turn is about to come up, start a formal routine again so you’re ready when it’s your time.
Now, some tricks you can use during the course to get a more competitive time:
1) When you fall on your front after the vault jump, try facing the cone. This allows you to make your way to the cone and onto your next lap right away versus getting up, turning, and then starting your run.
2) When you get up from your back fall after jumping the vault, try to roll over instead of getting up like a sit-up. First, it saves you energy. Second, you make a direct beeline to the cone, just like in the first tip. Make sure to clarify it this is acceptable though. Some places may not allow a rollover method.
3) When you run around the cones, take on a racer’s mentality. That is, don’t bee line it to the cones. Come at it a little wide, then cut into the turn. This minimizes the amount of deceleration and acceleration (one of the causes of losing energy), and allows you to maintain your speed as much as possible.
4) When you jump over the mat, don’t look at the front edge or back edge of the mat; instead look beyond it, like the cone that you’ll have to run around after landing. If you look at the edge of the mat, you will more than likely touch it and be docked 5 sec.
5) Another mat jump tip: don’t jump up and over. What I mean is, minimize the amount of time you spend in the air going up; instead, focus on jumping across it. By jumping up and over, you waste time spent in the air with hang time, and you waste energy to get yourself up.
6) Tip # 5 can be applied to jumping the hurdles. You want to jump across the hurdles, not up and over. If you ever watch hurdlers in the Olympics, they jump across the hurdles, which is exactly what you should be doing.
7) Tip # 5 can also be applied to the vault jump, although it can be a little harder to implement because of the height of the vault. You still want to create some space before you jump over, and not crowd the bar.
8) There are a few ways you can run the stairs. You’ll need to find what is the quickest way for you to run them without using too much energy.
9) For the push portion of the test, don’t rely on your upper body and arms to push; use your legs. This isn’t to say the upper body isn’t involved, it is. Just not in the manner you think it should be used. The power comes from the legs, while the upper body maintains stiffness and tension to transfer the power from your legs and into the machine. I can guarantee you will struggle if you don’t use your legs. Check out the video below for a tutorial on the push/pull machine.
10) For the pull portion, continue using your legs, along with your bodyweight. You want to push back with your legs, hold onto tight with your arms, and sit low without leaning back (you shouldn’t anyway). If you’re allowed to, use a crossover method when you do the pull; you typically have more control over the machine, and you can go just as fast as shuffling your feet, if not faster. Below is a tutorial on the pull:
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