To complete the Eagle-required Personal Fitness merit badge, you’ll need to create and follow an exercise program over the span of 12 weeks. In this article, you’ll learn how to create your own 12-week plan to reach your fitness goals. Plus, I’ve also included a printable personal fitness program that you can use to track your progress while working on this requirement.
If you haven’t yet completed requirements 1-6 and 9 of the Personal Fitness merit badge, I’ve also written a complete guide that’ll help you to answer each of the badge’s knowledge requirements. Click here to check it out.
Now it’s time to start building your program! First, take a minute to read through requirements 7 and 8 of the Personal Fitness badge.
Requirement 7) Outline a comprehensive 12-week physical fitness program using the results of your fitness tests. Be sure your program incorporates the endurance, intensity, and warm-up guidelines discussed in the Personal Fitness merit badge pamphlet. Before beginning your exercises, have the program approved by your counselor and parents.
Requirement 8) Complete the physical fitness program you outlined in requirement 7. Keep a log of your fitness program activity (how long you exercised; how far you ran, swam, or biked; how many exercise repetitions you completed; your exercise heart rate; etc.). Keep a log of your weekly healthy eating goals. Repeat the aerobic fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility tests every four weeks and record your results. After the 12th week, repeat all of the required activities in each of the three test categories, record your results, and show improvement in each one. Discuss how well you met your healthy eating goals over these 12 weeks. Discuss the meaning and benefit of your experience, and describe your long-term plans regarding your personal fitness.
Got it? Basically, over the next 12 weeks, you’ll be creating a plan to improve in 3 areas of your personal fitness:
- Cardiorespiratory Fitness: This refers to the health of your heart and lungs. To improve your cardiorespiratory fitness you should perform aerobic activities such as running, swimming, or jumping jacks.
- Muscular Strength/Endurance: This refers to the power and length of time you’re able to exert force with your muscles. To improve your muscular strength and endurance, you should perform exercises that work multiple muscle groups. These include push-ups, pull-ups, and squats.
- Flexibility: This refers to your body‘s ability to go through its full range of motion. Increasing your flexibility can help to prevent injuries and relieve your body of soreness. To improve flexibility, stretch regularly.
In your plan, you should be doing exercises to train these areas of personal fitness around 2-4 times per week. Your goal should be to slowly increase the difficulty of your program as you become stronger. Tailor your exercises to the BSA fitness test, as you’ll be working to improve your scores over time.
Below are the guidelines for the official BSA personal fitness test:
The BSA Personal Fitness Test (Do Every 4 Weeks)
As specified by usscouts.org, the Physical Fitness Tests specified for requirements 6 and 8 are as follows:
- Aerobic Fitness Test
Record your performance on one of the following tests:
- Run/walk as far as you can as fast as you can in nine minutes
- Run/walk one mile as fast as you can
- Run/walk as far as you can as fast as you can in nine minutes
- Flexibility Test
Using a sit-and-reach box constructed according to specifications in this merit badge pamphlet, make four repetitions and record the fourth reach. This last reach must be held steady for 15 seconds to qualify. (Remember to keep your knees down.)
- Strength Tests
You must do the sit-ups exercise and one other (either push-ups or pull-ups). You may also do all three for extra experience and benefit.
- Sit-ups. Record the number of sit-ups done correctly in 60 seconds. The sit-ups must be done in the form explained and illustrated in the merit badge pamphlet.
- Pull-ups. Record the total number of pull-ups completed correctly in 60 seconds. Be consistent with the procedures presented in the merit badge pamphlet.
- Push-ups. Record the total number of push-ups completed correctly in 60 seconds. Be consistent with the procedures presented in the merit badge pamphlet.
Click here to see the test procedures presented in the merit badge pamphlet.
To see instructions for building the Sit and Reach Box, Click here.
(The illustration shows dimensions for constructing the reach box in inches, while the requirement table in the pamphlet stipulates measuring the Scout’s reach in centimeters (cm). Either attach a tape measure calibrated in both inches and cm to the top panel, or mark the top panel in cm. The measuring scale should extend from 0 at the front edge of top panel to 53 cm at a point 0.34 cm before the back edge. That should place the 23 cm point 0.14 cm behind the face of the foot panel.)
Creating Your Own Personal Fitness Program
With the above test and your previous results in mind, watch this short (4:37) video to learn the foundations of creating your own workout plan:
I’d recommend following the 2nd workout split which recommends 1 day of upper body exercises, one day of lower body exercises, and then a rest day. However, instead of only working your muscles, I’d suggest having one of those days be more tailored to aerobic activity. To train flexibility, you should stretch at least every other day after you’ve finished exercising.
Below you can download my 12-week fitness plan to record your training type and frequency. Using what you’ve learned in the video, I’d recommend scheduling your exercises on the plan ahead of time and checking them off when they’ve been completed.
Using the section below, begin filling out your 12-week plan. Assess the results of your fitness test, and set a goal for your upcoming test in 4 weeks. I’d recommend trying to get a 25% higher score than before. Then, using the next few sections, select some of the following exercises to include in your 12-week program.
Personal Fitness Endurance, Intensity, and Warm-up Guidelines
Warm-up Guidelines: BSA recommends that you warm up before every workout with several minutes of low-intensity movement. I’d recommend either jogging or jumping rope to get your blood flowing, but you can also swim or walk briskly if you’d prefer.
Following the low-intensity warm-up, you should briefly stretch and loosen your muscles. Warning! If you’ll be working on strength training, be sure to not overstretch beforehand. Being too limber can increase your risks of muscle tears and other injures if you fail to practice good form.
Endurance and Intensity Guidelines: When improving your personal fitness, consistency is much more important than intense training. Be sure to not overextend or injure yourself. Practice proper technique when engaging in high intensity and endurance activities to take care of your body.
Aerobic activities can improve your cardiorespiratory fitness which will lead to more energy and better health. To improve cardiorespiratory fitness, engage in aerobic activities that get your heart pumping and blood flowing.
Some examples of exercises that you can do to improve your aerobic fitness include:
- Running: Jog for two or more miles at a steady pace. Try your best not to start walking.
- Swimming: Swim for 15-30 minutes, making sure to exercise proper form and breathe deeply.
- Jumping rope: Jump rope for 10 minutes.
- Sprints: Sprint distances between 200 and 800 meters to train your aerobic intensity.
When training your muscular strength and endurance, a good rule of thumb is to do 80% of your maximum amount of the exercise for 3 sets. This means that if you can do 10 pushups at most, you’ll do 8 pushups 3 times with breaks in-between each set.
Some examples of exercises that you can do to improve your muscular strength and endurance using this method include:
- Bicep curls
- Weight lifting (make sure to get supervision and use proper form)
Being flexible is a great skill to have, but one that must be gradually built over time. To improve your flexibility quickly, stretch or do some type of mobility exercise at least every other day. Make sure that your form is correct to avoid injury and don’t overextend yourself.
For the proper form to 6 great stretches that’ll greatly improve your flexibility, check out this video (7:37)