Archive for November, 2013

Beep Test Blunders

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Beep Test Blunders

I train and consult with a lot of people about passing the beep test and over the last several years I’ve come across a lot of people who without realizing it are making their lives more difficult than they need to when it comes to passing the test or who have an issue that could be fixed quite simply and which is preventing them from reaching their goal.

So if you are training for the beep test or another fitness test and you are struggling or stuck have a look at the list below for some common problems and see if any might apply to you.  The difference between a pass and fail could be a matter of a few minutes rather than weeks of extra training!


Basic Nutrition and Supplementation

This one has come up so many times in the last year alone that its now one of the first things I ask anyone who is struggling.

Your body is a big bag of chemicals made up entirely from the foods you have eaten since the day you were born.  These chemicals do everything you can think of and a thousand things you can’t even begin to understand without a PhD in Biochemistry. Despite this many people who embark on a training program don’t pay the slightest attention to analyzing or fixing their diet to make sure it is helping rather than hindering them.

One good example of this is people who really struggle with aerobic fitness tests like the beep test who turn out to be deficient in iron (and sometimes B Vitamins).  Iron is used by the body to make haemoglobin, the protein that oxygen attaches to in red blood cells and which transports this oxygen to the working muscles and heart.  If your iron and haemoglobin levels are low then your body is unable to get enough oxygen to keep up with demand and essentially you suffocate at the cellular level.

Certain groups such as vegetarians and women are more susceptible to low iron levels but even if your iron levels are within the “normal” range it may pay to increase dietary iron through red meat consumption (or the lowest dose iron supplement from a chemist) when you are training hard and trying to achieve an optimal score.

Likewise with B Vitamins which can have a profound impact on general energy and alertness.  A simple blood test at your doctor can determine if you are lacking in any areas that may hold you back (ask for a full blood count, vitamin B, vitamin D and if you are male, testosterone levels).

Once you get your results check them against the provided reference ranges.  Keep in mind that if you fall in the lower end of the reference range you may have scope to improve your performance through simple supplementation.

Making the test longer than it needs to be

If I asked you to go and run a 2.4km time trial and record your result it wouldn’t make sense to go out, run the 2.4km and then add on an extra hundred metres would it?

Believe it or not though many people are making just this mistake with the beep test and fixing it can easily be the difference between a pass and a fail in less than 15 minutes of practice.

Here is the problem.  The beep test is run on a 20m long track and the rules of the test are that you only have to touch the line at each end with one foot.  Therefore every centimetre you step over the line you are adding distance to the interval and over several levels this starts to add up.

If you were to overstep each end of the shuttle by half a metre (which is easily done) then each shuttle is 21m instead of 20m, a 5% increase in the distance you have to travel.  To put it another way if you were running 2.4km in 10:00 then adding 5% means running an extra 30 seconds and 120m just to pass the test.

The solution to this is simple.  Make sure that at each turn you only place the ball of your foot on the line and don’t overstep every time.  Saving 5% might not sound like a lot but I have seen this make the difference between a pass and a fail on more than one occasion.

Too much of one type of training

This one is pretty common for people new to training for the beep test and generally takes the form of trying to train for what is only a 6 – 15 minute test by running marathon distances.

Here is a HUGE tip.  If a test of physical fitness lasts a certain amount of time (say 7 minutes to complete level 7 of the beep test) then your training sessions should not extend past about 3-4 times that length of time.  If you need to get a level 7 on the beep test the longest run you need to do is about 20 minutes or 4km.  Need a level 10?  Stretch it out to about 7-8km in 30-40 minutes and for goodness sake only do that kind of run once per week!

A base level of aerobic fitness is required for the beep test but you also need to train at higher intensities to deal with the increasing pace of the test.

By the same token however constantly hammering away at practicing the test will also lead to less than optimal results.

To continue to develop a high level of fitness for the beep test (and any other running test) it is important to combine shorter, faster interval work, race pace/test work and some longer slower sessions.

For a complete guide to the Beep Test go to and pick up a copy of the worlds most comprehensive guide to the test as well as bonus material on diet and a new bonus of our 2 week emergency preparation program.