The decision to train as a firefighter is a life-changing one. It is natural to feel nervous about what may await you during your training. There is, however, one aspect of the process that causes particular concern for prospective firefighters: the Candidate Physical Ability Test.
The Candidate Physical Ability Test (usually referred to as the CPAT) is the international standard for fitness among firefighters. While some of the finer details may differ depending on geographical location, trainee firefighters will be expected to perform several physically demanding tasks to complete the tests. To work for a fire department, physical fitness is of the utmost importance. The CPAT test will be your first taste of the demands of working as a firefighter.
What does the CPAT involve?
The CPAT is a test designed to mimic the core fitness fundamentals you must possess if you wish to become a firefighter. Each section of the test is designed to effectively simulate a real-world demand for members or the fire brigade. You will, for example, undertake stair climb, equipment carry, rescue drag, and many other tasks. Furthermore, the CPAT is performed while wearing a 50 lb. (22.68 kg) vest to simulate the weight of a firefighter’s equipment.
To put it simply, the CPAT is a rigorous test of a trainee’s physical fitness. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you realize for the first time what it takes to become a firefighter – most applicants feel the same way.
We’re not going to lie; the test is demanding because it’s designed to assess whether you will be able to cope with the demands of the job role. However, it’s also important to remember that just as with most fitness goals, passing your CPAT is certainly attainable with the right preparation and hard work. Here are 5 tips to help you get started.
1) Attend an Open Day
Participating in an open day event can give you a chance to try the CPAT tasks for yourself, so you can have an idea of what to expect. This will help to demystify the test and increase your confidence in your ability to pass it successfully.
2) Maintain Your General Fitness
Focus on three main areas of your fitness: cardio, endurance, and strength. While these areas are not especially unique to the CPAT, a good core fitness regime that accounts for these three areas should benefit you hugely when it comes to the individual tasks of the test itself. In an ideal world, you would have already been active for years by the time you start contemplating taking on the assessment. In that case, all you need to focus on is to practice the specific tasks and not worry about getting out of breath halfway through.
3) Choose the Right Fuel
By “fuel” we mean the right amount and quality of food. Choose your daily food intake based on your activity levels and focus on getting plenty of protein-rich food as well as carbohydrates and fats in your meals. Cut back the on junk food and ensure the majority of your meals are based on wholesome foods from all levels of the food pyramid. Cutting back on alcohol will also make a huge difference in your performance.
4) Achieve and Maintain Your Ideal Body Weight
Digging into the technicalities of body composition is beyond the scope of this article. However, it’s worth remembering that not only will your physical fitness be assessed, but you may not get to take the test if your medical parameters don’t meet the requirements. BMI is one of them. Not to mention that dragging around excessive extra weight on the test or on the job will make your life much harder, so it’s best to prepare well in advance, and if needed, begin a weight loss program.
5) Keep Your Training Task Focused
The CPAT is not a test you can push to the back of your mind and just hope you will pass. If you want to make sure you arrive at your assessment with a bag of confidence, knowing you are prepared for all the tasks and are able to complete them without fail, you may want to look into hiring an expert fitness coach who knows what it takes and can help you get there too.
The CPAT is a difficult, strenuous test, but not impossible. By taking into account the tips above, you will be able to prepare for it as effectively as possible.