By its very nature, the beep test (or yo-yo test) is designed to take you to the limits of your fitness levels. It’s difficult and uncomfortable towards its latter stages, but there are ways to beat it.
Some of the ways to win are simply knowing the right tips and tricks for the beep test, but that doesn’t take away from the simple fact that your score is determined mainly by how fit you are.
So, how can you improve your level of fitness specifically for the beep test? Here’s how:
1. If your fitness levels are low (if not, skip to the next section):
Many people need to do the beep test for the police, fire or army recruitment purposes.
The fitness requirements for these tests aren’t incredibly high, but if you’re not doing any form of regular exercise, this will still be a challenge.
If you’re in this situation it’s essential that you establish a regular fitness routine and do it for several weeks, preferably months, before the test. Let’s be clear: getting fit will not happen overnight. This isn’t like a school exam, you can’t cram the night before! Doing too much in too short a space of time risks injury.
Your preparation can include anything that gets you fit: swimming, cycling, aerobics. But keep in mind that the beep test is one that tests your RUNNING fitness so your training can’t ignore this.
Train like Rocky if you want, as long as it’s improving your fitness.
To make sure you are going to hit your desired beep test level, it’s a good idea to try to run around the pace of the level that you’re trying to reach. So if you’re aiming for level 10 on the standard beep test (a very good level) then try to work up to running at 13km/h – in other words you should be doing 1 km in just over 4 and a half minutes.
Generally: if you’re fit enough to do a kilometre at that pace then you should reach that level on the test its self. If you want to measure your speed and distance while you’re running (you really should), you can simply use an app on your phone like RunKeeper, or Nike+ Running – or use a specialist GPS watch like the Garmin Forerunner 10*.
The bottom line for you is that training needn’t be complicated, just get out there often and make sure that you’re challenging yourself each time or you won’t be getting any fitter.
Now skip past the more advanced section below for further advice at the bottom of this article.
2. If you’re already fit
So your fitness levels are already pretty good but you’re looking to achieve an even higher score on the test? Most people doing the beep test for sports purposes will fall into this category.
If this is you, it could mean taking a new approach to training.
You’re fit, but what’s the best way to train specifically for the beep test?
Many people train for the beep test by going for long runs. That’s fine if you’re a beginner looking to get a basic level of fitness, but running for a long time at a single speed isn’t really what the beep test is looking for.
Instead, you need to push your running up a gear and work your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. That can be done using interval or Fartlek training, which involves training part of the time at speeds above (and sometimes way above) your normal running pace. Evidence has shown that this can improve your level of overall fitness faster than normal running. It will certainly familiarise you more with working at the higher speeds the beep test will take you to.
For a thorough introduction to this concept, check out our guide to Fartlek training to see how you can structure your own workouts effectively.
To be specific, however, our most recommend training session is the notorious 10-20-30s, which has been shown to give already fit people impressive fitness improvements, even whilst training half the distance they usually did. It’s not easy, but it does give results and is a great way to train to hit those higher beep test levels. See our guide to 10-20-30 training for more details.
If you train like this and practice the beep test a few times (more on that below) then you should be fully prepared by the time you take the test.
Avoid this BIG mistake
You won’t improve your fitness levels without pushing yourself, so whatever your beep test target you should be stretching yourself with your training efforts.
But in doing this, you need to be REALLY careful of injury. You won’t be able to record ANY score on the test at all if you’re too injured to run.
So, before you push yourself in any training session you must make sure that you’re warmed up. Doing some light jogging for 5-10 minutes, followed by some dynamic stretching should be enough before gradually hitting more strenuous activities.
Remember, when you’re training you should be pushing yourself in terms of effort, but not physical pain. If you’re feeling pains in your muscles or joints then you need to ease off and see a doctor if it persists.
Always warm up before training – it doesn’t have to be this ridiculous.
Practice doing the test – it’s a no-brainer
If I had a dollar for everyone who has said any of the following
- “The test was much harder than I thought it would be”
- “The turns make it so much more difficult than a normal run”
- “Something seemed to happen to me on the test that I hadn’t experienced in training”
… Then I’d be a very rich man.
To all of you people I say: PRACTICE THE TEST before the day. This will not only get you used to how it’s going to feel on the day, but it’s the only real way of knowing exactly what level you’re at and how much extra work you need to do to hit your target.
Let’s face it, it’s not a difficult test to do yourself. Anyone can set it up if they’ve got a bit of open space, a tape measure and the audio recording on their phone.
A word of caution: make sure you’re doing the correct test, and that you measure out the exact distance between markers with a tape measure (one that measures the entire distance in one go). Getting the distance wrong, even by a small amount, can massively skew your results.
How do I train for the turns?
You’ll often hear people saying that running the beep test distance in a straight line would be easy and that it’s the turns that make it so very difficult. There are tips that can help with turning (see our 8 simple tips to improve your beep test score), but it can help to practice them.
What’s the most effective way to practice your turns? We’ve yet to see a more effective way of doing it than actually doing a couple of practice beep tests. This way you can refine your turning technique and strategy before the big event.
People say the turns are what makes it so hard – so practice them.
6 tips to make this as easy as possible
Still daunted by the task ahead? Don’t be, it’s easier than you think to prepare for this test. Don’t put it off, start today and keep up your efforts with these simple tips:
- Try to get fit in ways you enjoy. Although some of your fitness sessions will need to be hard running sessions, mix this up with spinning classes, games of football, or anything else that keeps you fit whilst having fun.
- Always keep the goal in sight and remind yourself why you need to achieve it. If your future ambitions and happiness depend on the beep test, you’ll make sure that you’re out there training hard for it.
- Find fitness opportunities everywhere – be it walking instead of taking a bus, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Take every opportunity you can get to improve your fitness.
- Make a routine and stick to it. If your routine says you go out every Wednesday for a run then you make sure that nothing gets in the way of that.
- Find a training partner or group to train with. When you have moments where you’re tempted to skip a session, being part of a group or having a training partner can give you the extra motivation to stick to the plan.
- Sort out your diet – you can be doing a lot of fitness work and getting nowhere by undoing it all with a poor diet. Eating healthy is all part of the preparation for doing well on the beep test. Check out what a football player eats, and you need to be aiming for similar.
All that remains is for us to say good luck! Half of your battle is just getting motivated and started – let us know in the comments below how you get on and what worked for you.