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How can I test my fitness?
A good way to test your fitness is putting yourself through the bleep test.

Lance Armstrong in action during the 2005 Tour de France
Lance Armstrong: One of the few bleep test masters

The bleep test is a multi-stage fitness test in which you must do 20 metre shuttle runs in time with the bleeps until the bleeps get too quick for you.

It is a maximal test which means it will take you to your fitness limit.

The shuttle runs are done in time to bleep sounds on a pre-recorded audio cassette.

The time between the recorded bleeps decreases every minute as the level goes up.


The test usually consists of 18 or 21 levels depending on whether you get the tape or the CD respectively.

Only elite athletes can expect to reach the top three.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong and footballer David Beckham are two of the few people who can manage it.

When a team gets told it is doing the bleep test it usually strikes fear into everyone - even at international level
James Kirtley, Sussex cricketer

Each level lasts 60 seconds.

A level is basically a series of 20 metre runs.

The starting speed is normally 8.5 kilometres (km/hr) an hour and then increases by 0.5km/hr with each new level.

The tape used for this test gives a single 'bleep' at intervals.

This indicates the end of a shuttle, and three bleeps means you move onto the next level.

The test is used by sports coaches to estimate an athlete's VO2 Max (maximum oxygen uptake).

The test is often recommended for players of sports which involve a lot of stop-start sprinting, such as tennis, rugby, football or hockey.


Don't do the bleep test unless you have a reasonable level of fitness as it can be dangerous.

Also avoid it if you have a history of medical problems.

You will need the following equipment to do the test:

  • Tape measure
  • Flat, non-slippery surface of at least 20 metres in length
  • Two cones or markers
  • Notepad
  • Recorded 'bleep' audio cassette and a tape player

    Once you have got the equipment:

  • Measure out the 20m running zone using the cones or markers.

    A tape measure
    Tape measure: Very handy for bleep tests

  • Make sure your foot is on or behind the starting point.

  • Start the test, making sure you arrive at the cone/marker before the next bleep.

  • If you arrive at the end of a shuttle before hearing the bleep, you must wait for it before you start running again.

  • Carry on running for as long as possible, until you can no longer keep up with the speed set by the tape.

  • If you fail to reach the end of the shuttle before the bleep, you should try two or three more shuttles and see if you can make up the pace before you end the test.

  • Try to get a friend to note down the level and number of shuttles you have done.

  • Do the test once a week to see if your fitness is improving. As your training progresses, you should show better results every time you re-test yourself.

    To get hold of a tape contact your local athletics organisations or sports authorities.


    This is the simple alternative to the Bleep test which you can do in your own back garden.

    Tim Henman often does this shuttle test to improve his fitness on court.

    Tim Henman wipes the sweat during a tough tennis match
    Shuttle runs are sweaty work

    All you need is a stop watch and two markers.

  • Put two cones or markers 20 metres apart.

  • See how many shuttle runs you can do in the space of one minute. Make sure you are running right to the cones. No shortcuts!

  • Have one minute's rest and then try and beat that score.

  • Have another one minute rest and try again.

  • Continue this until you have done it five times. Note down your results and work out how many runs you did in the five minutes of shuttles.

  • See if you can beat that total the next time.

    What happens in a VO2 max test?
    29 Sep 05 |  Health & Fitness


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