The Horror of School Fitness Tests

9 years ago

The other day I started thinking about school tests and standardized test and suddenly a nightmare memory popped into my head: the mile run for the Presidential Physical Fitness Test.

As a child, I was not athletic. I was chubby. I didn't run unless chased. While I had no trouble naturally with sit-ups or push-ups (I don't remember anyone doing well with chin-ups -- why were they on the test, anyway?), I dreaded that mile run as though a fire-eating dragon were on the other end. I also dreaded -- and still dread -- the overuse of the word "hustle" by adults who are not moving when they utter it. Especially if they're wearing polyester shorts with two snaps and a zipper.

I started out with every intention of writing about kids and the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, but what I found, what I found! Was a whole bunch of adults with post-traumatic stress about the test ... and interestingly, those same adults are in better shape now than they were in high school.

Fitness blogger Marissa at Assessments and Testing writes:

If you're anything like me, as a kid you dreaded the day the Presidential Physical Fitness Test rolled around. I was, to say the least, puny and weak. And while I certainly couldn't do a pull-up, I believe I even lacked the physical ability to simply hang there, and hold onto the bar for dear life.

Runner Ms. Hill also remembers the test with loathing:

The ironic thing is that I am not an athlete. Because I had height, many people tried to get me into athletics (especially basketball) when I was younger, but I hated organized sport. I hated to run. And I loathed the mile run of the Presidential Physical Fitness test. The banes of my existence were the run and the flexed arm hang. So what made me START running after 30?

Fat Athlete suffered humiliation when her teacher announced she'd won the Presidential ACADEMIC Fitness Award in front of the class:

But of course I would never have won the Presidential Fitness Award! Other than riding my bike everywhere, I was in awful shape. I couldn't do a single push-up, modified or not. Sit-ups were OK. I couldn't jog to save my life. Let's not even mention horrifyingly, desperately dangling mess that was supposed to be the chin-up. P.E. class was torture for me, and I was genuinely perplexed by people who looked forward to it. So, not only would I have never won the fitness award; I couldn't care less about it. Well, except for the snickers when my peers thought for a second that I had won it.

Do you even remember the test? Fitsugar reminds us of the requirements.

To be presented with the Presidential Fitness Award you need to be in or above the 85th percentile. For a 17-year-old girl, the standards are as follows:

    * Curl-ups: 44 in 60 seconds
    * Shuttle run: 10 seconds
    * One mile run: 8:15
    * Pull ups: 1
    * "V" sit: +8

Oh, God. The only time I ran a mile in eight minutes and 15 seconds was a 5k in Chicago when I was freaked out by the neighborhood I was running through.

I'm sure I didn't do it in high school, but I think I ran that fast when I was 23. When I was a kid, I didn't think I could run. I didn't try at all. Now as an adult, I like jogging, hiking, lifting rocks, you name it. I enjoy the body ache. I even occasionally enjoy athletic competition, but not if it involved eye-hand coordination. As a result, I'm trying to talk up exercise to my girl in the hope that when she remembers the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, she'll remember she blew it away.

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