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Redemption workout: Re-take the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge

girl letterman jacket track
High school not a peak fitness era for you? Take take the test again!


Remember that time of year, in high school, when your gym teacher forced you to actually exert yourself and try for an elusive President’s Physical Fitness Award?

I do. And it was not pretty.

After trading in my basketball sneakers for drama club scripts, running laps turned into running lines. So, naturally, I didn’t want proof that I could barely do a single push-up or run a mile. Plus, as my teenage self would say, tests in gym class are totally lame. (Okay, I might still say that.)

woman running stretch
A stretch after my timed run on NYC sidewalks. Are bonus points awarded for dodging human obstacles?

Fast forward to 2012: I work out four-to-six times per week. So when I recently learned about a way to redeem myself with the President’s Challenge Adult Fitness Test, I jumped at the chance. The instructions and an official evaluation process are available free online. What better way to shake my fist at my old gym teacher by proving my prowess at all those old (humiliating) drills by nailing them now?

So, in honor of our president and his sexy, muscular wife, I outfitted my boyfriend with a timer and got to work.

Here’s how I fared:

I was in the 90th percentile for the 1.5 Mile Run and the 85th percentile for Half Sit-Ups, which is the government’s weird name for “crunches.” Take that!

Slightly more humbling was my Sit-and-Reach score. This is essentially a seated forward bend, where you get more points for reaching past your toes. I landed in the 45th percentile for flexibility. Apparently years of yoga have not improved my rigid constitution. I’m okay with that.

But I’d like to write my congressman about the way the next drill was measured. Apparently my 23 non-stop Push-Ups were only better than 40 percent of American women. Are you telling me that 60 percent of American women can do more than 23 push-ups in a minute without resting?

It’s possible the percentiles are based only on the (presumably fit) individuals who take the adult test. Or Michelle Obama. (I was not able to verify this.) Then there’s the fact that my former-military boyfriend was aggressively enforcing the flatness of my back and how close I was getting to the floor.

President's Challenge t-shirt
You can buy yourself a celebratory T-shirt ($9.50) no matter your score

Either way, the challenge motivated me to get stronger. And I can take the test again next year to see if I have.

Although I’d still like to think that overall, my lanky 16-year-old self would be proud. —Lisa Elaine Held

Will you celebrate your day off by honoring the President and testing your amazing fitness prowess? Let us know, in the Comments, below.