Beat the bleep!

6 people lined up about to start the bleep test

Every month at the YMCA Club, Health & Fitness Advisor, Shun-Yin Chan, runs ‘bleep tests’ to measure fitness levels. Bleep tests can be taken by anyone, regardless of age or fitness. Whether you’re new to exercise, recovering from an injury or training for an endurance event, your bleep test result is simply a starting point – a measurement which you might like to improve throughout your fitness journey. Shun-Yin gives us the lowdown…

What exactly is a bleep test (also known as a ‘beep’ test)?

It’s a universal, multi-stage fitness test which measures your VO2 max, i.e. your oxygen uptake rate (lung capacity) and how efficient your body is at delivering oxygen to your muscles, in order for you to perform. A bleep test is carried out during physical exertion, e.g. running. Your test result (level) is determined by a chart, which takes your age and gender into consideration. Your result indicates your level of cardiovascular fitness. The military and police use this test to measure the fitness of their candidates.

How does it work?

Our 20-metre bleep test takes place in the Main Sports Hall. You will hear a series of bleeps on a CD which mark each 20-metre shuttle run (roughly the length of the hall). You complete the first 20-metres as a fast walk or jog across the hall. When you get to the other side, you have to wait for the next bleep before making your way back. Each bleep sounds slightly earlier than the last one meaning that you’ll have to pick up pace in order to reach the other side before you hear the next bleep. You run faster and faster, back and forth, in order to beat the bleeps. When you’re too tired to keep up and you miss two consecutive bleeps, you simply drop out. Where you drop out determines your level.

How long does it take?

Each level takes approximately one minute, so if you reach level 5 for example, you will last approximately five minutes.

What does the test result prove?

The longer you stay in, the higher your level. The higher your level, the fitter you are.

What are the benefits of a bleep test?

Ultimately, a healthier heart and lungs, but there are many advantages. If you have better aerobic fitness, it stands you in good stead for everyday activities like running for a bus. The fitter you are, the better you will be at performing a range of exercises, whether it’s an aerobics class or running. Better aerobic capacity can also help you with your strength training. Your recovery periods will also be shorter.

When and how often should I take a bleep test?

Taking the test at the start of the year is quite useful because there will be new people who are starting or re-starting their fitness journey. As they continue their fitness journey, they can either test themselves every month, every few months or towards the end of the year to chart their progress. Their technique and performance will improve with each bleep test.

If this is your first test, make a note of your result and use it as a base point to measure your cardiovascular fitness over a period of time.

How many people take part?

Up to 15 people take part in one bleep test.

We run two tests every month, so approximately 30 people per month.

What kind of people take part?

People who train regularly and simply want to maintain or improve their level of fitness.

People who are new to exercise take the bleep test as their starting point. As they get deeper into their fitness journeys, they will repeat the test months or years later, to chart their level of fitness. Providing they continue to exercise, they’ll either improve their result or maintain it.

People who might be recovering from an injury or returning to fitness after a period of time. They might want to chart their recovery to see how long it takes to return to their former level of fitness.

People who might be training for a specific sport, race or endurance event like a marathon, triathlon or 10K run. They want to measure how their fitness has improved over their training period.

What’s the range of bleep test results at the YMCA Club?

Our members’ results range from level 5 to level 14.

Read about our fastest ‘bleeper’, David Bryan

Level 14 is very fit, but professional athletes and players can reach levels of up to 25.

I’m not very fit, does this matter?

A common misconception is that some people don’t want to take part until they’re fit. They feel under pressure to get to a certain level before they attempt it. A bleep test is simply a measure of your fitness – a useful tool to chart your own personal fitness journey as opposed to competing against others in a race.

Conversely, some people do compete against each other because it helps them to push themselves further and last longer. If you’re the only one doing the test, you’re on your own, which some people find difficult.

I don’t like tests – what should I do?

A lot of people don’t like the word “test”. They worry about doing their best and wonder how best to train for it. You don’t need to train for a bleep test – it’s a starting point rather than an end point. It’s simply a measurement to help improve your future fitness. Off the back of each bleep test result, you can make improvements to your exercise routine to attain better results in future.

Advice to new bleepers

Wear trainers with a good grip to avoid skidding.

Avoid eating in the two-hour period before the test - you don’t want to still be digesting food when your body is trying to deliver blood to your muscles!

Relax as much as you can.

Jog slowly at first. If you conserve energy in the beginning, you’ll be able to run further. Try to keep a continuous movement going, as opposed to starting and stopping. If you reach the other side of the hall way before the beep, there’s no advantage, because you’ll just have to stop. Stopping and starting uses up more energy, so try to keep moving.

Prepare and decelerate for each turn.

Stop when it feels right for you. Different people have different levels. Don’t overdo it! There’s always next time (every month).

How can I take part?

Just turn up on the day. No booking necessary. Free for members.

Non-members will need to pay for a day pass to access the YMCA Club.

Claire.Gilderson | 25 February 2020