The bleep test, also known as the multi-stage endurance fitness test, is an assessment you can prepare for in advance.
We suggest that you practice the test at the start of your training so that you have a baseline score to work from. You'll be able to see how effective your training is if you re-test yourself intermittently throughout your training.
As with any sort of exercise, if you're not a regular exerciser we recommend you check with your GP prior to starting any fitness programme.
How to Test Your Fitness Using the Bleep Test
The recording below will help you to gauge your endurance fitness level. Once you know your score you can use this as a baseline for maintaining and improving your fitness.
You’ll need to find a 15 metre flat track - this could be at a local sports hall, running track, in your garden or on a quiet pavement. Mark your start an end points so you can be sure you're running the correct distance.
Listen to the recording above or use a bleep test app on your mobile phone to set the pace as you run to and fro along your 15 metre track. Check any apps you're using are for 15 metres, not 20 metres.
If you arrive at the end line before the bleep sounds you’ll need to wait for the bleep before resuming running and you should adjust your speed accordingly.
The timing between bleeps is slow at first (the bleeps are about seven seconds apart) but they become faster as the test progresses and it will become more difficult to keep up with the required speed.
You should run to your optimum level without becoming exhausted. You’ll need to reach a minimum of four shuttles at level 5 to pass the recruitment test.
You shouldn’t use the bleep to train; it’s there to test and monitor your progress.
How to Improve Your Bleep Test Score
Once you have your baseline score you'll have an idea of how much work you need to do. Here are our suggestions, but if you aren’t a regular exerciser you should seek medical advice before embarking on an exercise programme.
To develop and maintain your endurance, try to do one or a combination of these activities for 20-40 minutes, three times a week.
If you haven’t exercised regularly in the past you should start with gentle continuous sessions of 15 minutes and gradually increase the time over a couple of months. The ‘couch to 5k’ programme is a good place to start.
Once you have a good endurance base then you can try interval and varied pace training to further build and maintain your fitness level.
There are many different activities you can do to improve your endurance fitness. These generally fall into two categories, sports and rhythmical exercises.
Playing sports regularly such as football, netball, hockey, squash and rugby can be an enjoyable way of maintaining and improving your level of endurance fitness. Remember you should be fit to play sport first.
Any sport that causes you to get out of breath and lasts 30 minutes or more will be of benefit. Many sports fit this category; choose one that will fit into your lifestyle and that you enjoy. That way, you’re more likely to continue playing.
How much and how fast your endurance fitness improves depends on how fit you were when you started and how hard you play.
Your endurance fitness will improve quicker if you take part in activities that use large muscle groups, creating a large aerobic demand. Examples are running, cycling, swimming, rowing, aerobics and step aerobics.
There are three training methods you can use to improve your endurance:
- Varied pace
- Interval training.
The information below uses running as an example but you can use these techniques across any other form of rhythmical exercise.
Involves exercising either continuously for a set time (20 minutes or more) and recording the distances covered, or exercising for a set distance and recording the time taken.
For example, with running the most common approach is to time yourself running a set distance of at least 3 miles, usually starting and finishing at home. The next time you run you’d try to beat your time.
Use your heart rate as an intensity gauge
Your heart rate is a good indicator for controlling how intensely you work out.
One approach is to keep your heart rate between 130 and 160 beats per minute. At this intensity you’ll be able to sustain a conversation.
You can measure your heart rate easily by taking your pulse. Just place two fingers on the underside of your wrist, in line with the base of your thumb, and count the number of beats in fifteen seconds. Multiply this figure by four to give an estimate of your heart rate per minute.
Varied Pace – Fartlek
To do this simply vary your running pace during your training session. Interrupt steady, continuous running with occasional faster running or short sprints.
Take some time to plan your run to get the most out of this approach.
A typical varied pace session could follow this pattern:
- Jogging (five minutes)
- Fast evenly paced running (three minutes)
- Brisk walking (two minutes)
- Evenly paced running with 50-60 metre sprints every 200 metres (five minutes)
- Jogging (two minutes)
- Evenly paced running with occasional small fast sprints (three minutes)
- Jogging (five minutes)
- Rhythmical exercises, skipping, gentle knee raises and stretching to warm down (ten minutes)
This involves running for a set time or distance, a specified number of times with periods of rest or recovery in between.
For example, you could choose your normal running course and run at 75% effort for three minutes and then a jog or briskly walk for 2 minutes. Repeat for the whole course.
As your endurance fitness develop you can adjust your running and recovery durations. Or, run a set distance within a set time, for example 800 metres in 4 minutes with a timed rest in between.
- Try to train with friends as this will make your exercise programme a more enjoyable and safer activity.
- Try to monitor your progress by recording times taken, distances covered, recovery times and so on. This will help you to understand your progress and give you a focus for continuing training.
- Set yourself realistic targets that you’ll want to go out and achieve.
- Do not overdo your training. Start gently and build up gradually over a number of months.
- Try to spread your fitness sessions out rather than playing squash, weight training and swimming all in one day and then doing nothing else for the rest of the week.
- When training for muscular strength, always train the muscles at the front and the back of the body, to ensure your maintain a balance of strength.
- Never train when you’re feeling unwell as you could become serious injured.