You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from combat-fit NSmen when Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced the latest changes to the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).
The new-look physical fitness test that the military, police and civil defence forces will use from April next year has been simplified from what used to be an onerous five-station undertaking into a lighter three-station test.
Every year, NSmen need tackle only a 2.4km run, sit-ups and push-ups to pass and earn cash awards of up to $500.
An ankle injury put me out of the IPPT circuit for more than a decade, so I will most likely be taking the new test next year.
I will probably have less to worry about, since the chin-ups, standing broad jump and 4x10m shuttle run have been scrapped.
When I was an 18-year-old soldier, I just about earned a silver award, after being tripped up by the chin-ups - my personal best was eight - and the 2.4km run, which took me 10min 30sec.
This time, as I reach the age of 34, the maths to a silver, if not a gold, might not be as daunting. I must do 35 sit-ups and the same number of push-ups within a minute, and clock a maximum of 10:41 in the run.
Before the test was overhauled, a gold would have meant more than 36 sit-ups, a leap of more than 225cm in the broad jump, a shuttle run within 10.5sec, finishing my 2.4km run in less than 10 minutes and getting my chin over the bar at least eight times.
The new IPPT could be my best chance to not just pocket $500, but earn bragging rights for being certified as being in the top grade. Some might feel that I am underestimating the newly added push-ups.
On paper, the gold requirements do not look overly tough.
After all, most people of my vintage would have seen more punishing routines during national service, when we had to do over 50 push-ups at one go.
But doing 35 within a minute is quite different.
Even those who hope to qualify for the elite United States Navy Seals have double the time to complete at least 42 push-ups, although most in the unit have no trouble exceeding this easily.
So the decision to replace the dreaded chin-ups with push-ups might not be a short cut after all.
Army chief Perry Lim says they are also "a very good test of upper-body muscular strength and endurance".
The most convenient and effective way to build up the stamina required, says personal trainer Chris Chew, who trains people to pass the IPPT, is to do push-ups at home regularly, in addition to gym routines to bulk up the chest.
And there is no running away either from the 2.4km station, especially when it accounts for half of the new 100-point IPPT test.
In the Israeli Defence Forces' three-station fitness test, the 2km run category carries an even heavier weighting of 70 per cent.
The 2.4km run, one of the top complaints about the IPPT, should be easier to pass now, especially since slow timings can be made up for with good showings in push-ups and sit-ups.
But it is also the best measure of cardiovascular endurance, said Mr Chew, which is why there is an extra emphasis on running. All things considered, the new IPPT might seem easier, but this is no reason for me to slack off.
This article was first published on July 25, 2014.
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