Just how fit do Garda recruits need to be? Well, more than one in six applicants are failing the general fitness test they must take to become members of the force, the Department of Justice revealed recently.
Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, says he’s concerned the test is too stringent and is undermining efforts to increase the size of An Garda Síochána, after the pandemic brought recruitment to a halt.
So how hard is the fitness test really? Irish Times reporters Conor Capplis and Sarah Burns have volunteered to find out.
‘At the sprightly age of 24, surely I’m fitter than some of those aul’ fellas out on the beat, right?’
Prepping for the test, instead of undergoing some sort of Rocky montage, I decide to call an exercise physiologist for his take.
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“Anyone with a modicum of fitness and a little bit of training should be able to attain it,” Prof Niall Moyna from Dublin City University tells me.
Great, so no excuses.
The Garda failure rate of more than one in six trainees is “very reflective of the world we live in”, according to Moyna. “We’re engineering activity out of our lives,” he says, adding that only one in 10 children leaving school meets the minimum recommended amount of exercise each day. So it’s really no wonder people are failing.
Apparently gardaí should be able to consume oxygen at 12 times the average resting pace. At the sprightly age of 24, surely I’m fitter than some of those aul’ fellas out on the beat, right?
The first task – the progressive shuttle run, also known as the bleep test – was no doubt designed by a madman hoping to inflict as much pain as he could on the world. Running over and back a 20m track, I have to increase my speed until I eventually hit 10km/h.
Next are the sit-ups. I manage the required 35 in one minute by a hair’s breadth, although the last one is certainly debatable.
Afterwards, I am in no state for press-ups. Twenty-five is the number to beat, but my meagre attempt is not something I’m looking forward to seeing immortalised on video. I barely reach 10. Of course, our photographer just has to drop and do 20 of them without breaking a sweat, “just to see if he could do it”.
As our request to take the actual test at Templemore Garda College remains “under consideration”, we have to get creative with the next section.
An obstacle course designed to mimic a chase is difficult to replicate, but after we create a makeshift body, balance beam, gate and car wheel, we’re good to go. Sarah and I both complete three laps in under 1 minute 40 seconds, far below the 3 minutes 20 seconds to beat. I’ll take my medal now, please.
For the push-pull test, designed to resemble a struggle, we can’t locate an isokinetic machine. So instead we push some heavy boxes along the floor.
Although I fail a stage, with a bit more training I’m sure I could be in with a shot – although the force might insist I get a hair cut.
I have a renewed respect for those lucky enough to pass their Garda training. I’ll certainly never try to outrun a new recruit. – Conor Capplis
‘I know the sit-ups will be my strongest category – and get them done with 20 seconds to spare (humblebrag)’
Just under 24 hours before I’m due to take part in our version of the Garda fitness test, I think to myself, I have made a grave mistake.
I’ve just got off the phone with Conor Capplis, my fellow recruit. “So how fit would you be?” I’d asked him sheepishly, reasoning it wouldn’t be so bad if we both made a hames of it.
Conor said he wasn’t that fit, but then casually added that he did take part in an ultramarathon last year. An ultramarathon?
I hang up the phone, Google “ultramarathon” and discover that it involves running over and above the standard 26.2-mile race.
“This might be a bit of craic,” I had said to my boss when asked to take part in the test. But as Conor and I make our way into Trinity College Sports Centre I’m wondering why I had so casually signed up for an hour or so of torture and embarrassing evidence that would live on the internet for a long time.
First up is the dreaded bleep test, a series of 20m shuttle runs between two points within a specified period of time. In the female category for 26-35 year olds, I have to secure a ranking of at least 6.6. I have never been as happy to fall into a higher age group, because women aged 18-25 years need to reach a higher score of 7.6.
YouTube videos reliably inform me that to get through the bleep test I should start slow and build up momentum, treating it like one long run rather than sprinting back and forth, waiting for the bleep.
It seems to do the trick on the day, and I bow out at 7.2.
Next up are 27 sit-ups in one minute. I know this will be my strongest category and get them done with 20 seconds to spare (humblebrag).
After that it’s 18 press-ups, which have no time limit. Women are allowed to complete them on their knees, with their legs crossed behind them. I technically manage to get the 18 press-ups done, but I’m not sure if they’d have counted in a real test, as I might not have got my body low enough for some of them.
Next is the obstacle course that we’ve put together to mirror the Garda one as closely as possible, which recruits have to complete three times in under 3 minutes 20 seconds. I can feel myself getting tired halfway through the second circuit, and wonder if this is what an ultramarathon feels like.
With the circuit completed in under the time required, it’s on to our final task: the push-pull machine. Again, we get creative with this section, deciding that pushing heavy boxes down the hall might be the best (or only) equivalent available to us.
Just as I finish pushing my box down the hall, Conor turns and says, “Congrats, you passed!” I’ve passed? I’ve passed! Templemore awaits. – Sarah Burns