The Canada Fitness Test

4 06 2010

Was talking with a friend this evening about the Tragically Hip, and I was reminded that the song “Fireworks” contains a reference to the Canada Fitness Test – specifically, the flexed arm hang.

For those of you not of a certain age: the Canada Fitness Test was something that junior high school students were subjected to every year. There were six events: speed situps, 50 yard dash, 300 yard dash, flexed arm hang (where you basically did a chin up for as long as you could), long jump and “shuttle run”, where you had to pick up blocks at point A, carry them to point B, drop them off, go back, and repeat.

For each event, there were three standards to try to beat: gold, silver, and bronze. If you got gold in four of the six events, you got a gold badge; similarly for silver and bronze. If you got gold in all six events, you earned the coveted Award Of Excellence.

In three years, I got one bronze and two nothings. It wasn’t for lack of trying: one year, I kept trying the shuttle run over and over again, but kept falling three-tenths of a second short. I did get a gold in speed situps once by following the approach of doing as many situps as I could as fast as I could. For about 40 seconds, I was a speed situp demon, and made it over the coveted gold standard. For the last 10 seconds, I could not move. I think my stomach hurt for days.

The one I dreaded was the flexed arm hang. I was always bad at that. One year, someone who was timing me decided to try a trick: he told me that I had been up for less time than I actually had. The idea, which was well-intentioned, was to get me to hold out for what I thought was the bronze length of time but was really longer. This move backfired: I was already so tired that I figured that there was no way I could last long enough, so I stopped right away.

The other fitness test I had to endure during my junior high school years was unique to my school, as far as I know: the 12-minute run. Twice a year, we were sent out to the track – which was actually just an elliptical dirt path – and told to run as far as we could for 12 minutes. The amount of status you had at school that year was pretty much proportional to the number of laps that you did. The athletes could do 7 or 7 1/2 laps. I managed somewhere between 5 1/2 and 6. One year, I managed 6 1/2 laps, a feat of which I was extremely proud. I think my pulse rate got up over 200 during the run – they asked us to measure it when we stopped – and I was purple in the face at the end. But it was worth it.

I am not especially nostalgic about my childhood.




3 responses

6 06 2010
C Quarrington

I relate so strongly to this it’s scary – except the part about accomplishing a decent number of laps. It’s funny, because I was trying to tell someone about that GD test and the 12 minute run just last week, someone who couldn’t relate. Unfortunately I am even less nostalgic about my adolescence. But all is as it should be. Thanks for the reminder of the gory details.

10 06 2010
Gump's friend

Ah, the 12 minute run. I remember reporting my number of laps completed to the gym teacher and the look of derision on her face as she recorded it. I still run now (occasionally) and I still stink at it.

30 08 2014

We had the 12 minute run (it was called “the endurance run” in Saskatchewan), too.

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