When recruits first arrive at boot camp, they run an initial Physical Fitness Test (PFT) to determine the capabilities of each prospect. The Marine PFT consists of pull-ups, crunches, and a timed, three-mile run. They will repeat this test a few times over the course of their stay in boot camp and results are carefully monitored by drill instructors, who track individual improvements.
If a recruit fails the test, they'll fall behind in training, prolonging the time spent at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot — a place where no young man or woman wants to spend any extra time.
The initial test is taken within a week or so of arriving. While there, recruits will likely see a few of the following archetypes in action.
The marathon runner
Some recruits barely meet the physical requirements of the screening process at MEPS — others show up to boot camp in tip-top shape. Once the drill instructor gives the platoon the signal to start the three-mile run, you'll quickly notice the endurance runners pull ahead of the pack.
The overrated bodybuilder
This guy or gal sports layers upon layers of muscle. They look tough and can probably lift a truck and a half, but this mass becomes a problem when it's time to complete the timed run. This recruit probably maxed out on the pull-ups and sit-ups without problem, but they'll be breathing heavily after about a mile's jog.
On the flip side, these recruits are great when it comes time to lift the log.
The "Pvt. Pyle"
We meant it when we said some recruits show up to boot camp after just barely satisfying the requirements of a MEPS physical exam. This recruit isn't remotely prepared for the physical demands of the Marine Corps — they've got a long way to go. This type of recruit makes the mediocre boots look pretty sh*t-hot.
But, as the saying goes, "you don't have to finish first, just don't finish last."
The skinny kid with upper body strength
You don't have to be a bodybuilder to do well at the PFT. In fact, being skinny can actually help you crank out numbers on the pull-up bar and smoke everyone else during the timed run. Conversely, however, it's a good idea to get those legs stronger in preparation for all those fun hikes you'll go on — especially if you're headed to San Diego for basic training.
The sh*tty counter
It may be frowned upon by the Corps, but if you're lucky, your platoon mate will count by twos during your PFT. We know, it doesn't sound so ethical, but it happens all the time. Conversely, some recruits live life by the books and make their platoon mates actually do every single sit-up on their way to reaching the goal of 100.