At points throughout your training regime, you may want to benchmark your fitness to track your progress. This calls for fitness challenges that will push you to the very limit.
Here are some workouts to make you feel the burn.
The fast shuttle to fitness
Shuttle runs are a fast way of attaining fitness through short bursts of sprint running. They help to improve your acceleration and speed, as well as your anaerobic fitness. After placing markers at 10, 20 and 30 metres, you should sprint to the 10m marker first, touch the floor and run back to your starting position. Then repeat this with the 20m and 30m markers. Go back to the 10m marker, and repeat the whole set four times.
You can always time yourself to try to get quicker with every set, and vary the shuttle runs by taking giant strides, jogging with high knees or skipping, instead of sprinting.
At the first bleep…
As with the shuttle runs, you will need a flat, non-stop surface for the bleep test, or the 20m multistage fitness test. You will have to run continuously between two markers 20 metres apart in time to recorded beeps.
At the start, the gap between beeps or bleeps is quite large, and so your running speed is quite slow, but after about a minute, a sound indicates an increase in speed, bringing the beeps closer together.
After each minute, the gap between beeps decreases. If you reach the marker before the beep, you have to wait until it sounds before you turn and continue; if you fail to make the marker before the beep, then you are given a warning and you must continue to the marker and turn and try to catch up with the pace with the sounding of two more beeps. If you fail to reach the marker twice in a row after a warning, the bleep test is stopped.
Any score above 13 is considered excellent. A maximal test requires a good level of fitness, and if you wear a heart-rate monitor, you’ll have a better idea of when you’ve maxed out.
Buckle up, Bronco
The pretty vicious Bronco fitness test has made life hell for many in the past, so this will give you a great benchmark for your fitness. The idea is to run shuttles of 20, 40 and then 60 metres, then repeat the set five times, trying to get under five minutes.
This will test your anaerobic capacity, your motor skills, your running efficiency, and your turning ability – the legendary Kiwi Richie McCaw recently managed a personal best in the Bronco fitness test of four minutes, 56 seconds, so you’re going to have to push yourself right to the very limit to break the five-minute mark.
The great news is that your whole team can do the test and work to maximum effort together, motivating one another. Give each other encouragement and consistent instructions before, during and after this tough benchmark test.
Doing the crab walk
This is a compound exercise that works many muscle groups, as well as working on your cardiovascular fitness, co-ordination and mobility. Balance on your hands and feet, with your front facing the ceiling and your hips forwards, so that you form a bridge.
Take a few crabby steps backwards and forwards to elongate your body – your triceps, shoulders, abs, back muscles, lats and hamstrings will get a thorough workout from this unusual position.
Join up with the resistance runners
Coaches will often swear by resistance running to make simple sprint drills that much harder. Wearing several rugby shirts or one soaked in warm water will teach you to maintain your running style under pressure.
You can also try carrying water bottles filled with sand during the shuttle runs to build upper-body strength, or give a teammate a piggyback or a fireman’s lift – don’t turn too much, though. Stay running in one direction!