How to train after you retire?

Our training for Force Recon in the ‘60’s involved the fitness tests and times listed below. These were not training exercises. These were tests. You were expected to meet these times before deployment.

Author: James Evans (former SSgt, Force Recon, Vietnam, USMC, Ph.D. Univ Prof)

Our First Sgt was 46. He often trained with us, matching us step for step. 20 years later, in my mid-40’s, my test times were nearly the same as they had been in my 20’s. My former First Sgt was now retired and lived nearby. We stayed in touch and often trained together. His test times at age 65 were just shy of the times listed below.

As impressive as this is, he wasn’t unique. A good friend of mine owned and operated a local gym. He was a former Special Forces officer (Green Beret), and a Vietnam Vet. A couple of retired SEALS and a Ranger on TDY with Force Recon trained at his gym along with myself and my former First Sgt.

Occasionally, all of us got together and did some trail running, and soft sand beach running. A really fun part of this is when we’d go to MCRD and run the obstacle courses. One of the SEALS’ Grandson was a distance runner at SDSU. He liked to run with us. He especially liked the obstacle courses.

When we began running together, our ages ranged from the early ’20s to mid-’60s. We continued running together for another 15 years.

Today, in my mid-70’s, I can still do the test runs. However, I can’t equal the times. As for the strength tests, I can do them, just not as many reps.

The following are the performance times for my Force Recon team just before Vietnam deployment. To reiterate, these were tests, not training exercises.


  • 10-mile trail run—Boots, Utes, Rifle, Ammo, and 50-pound pack—75 minutes.
  • 10-mile trail run—Boots, shorts, and T-shirt—65 minutes
  • 5-mile run—soft beach sand—Boots, shorts, and T-shirts—40 minutes. NOTE: We ran on the soft sand about 50 yards from the water, not the hard pack sand near the water.
  • 5-mile run—soft beach sand—Boots, Utes, Rifle, Ammo, and 50-pound pack—50 minutes.
  • 50 pull-ups, palms forward, full extension, slow and continuous, no bouncing—90 seconds.
  • 100 bent knee sit-ups, feet secured—3 minutes.
  • 100 push-ups, chest touching floor, no bouncing—3 1/2 minutes.
  • 30-foot rope climb, hands, no feet, from a sitting position—10 seconds.


The four strength tests were performed with no rest between them, i.e., you finished one and moved immediately to the next one. Force Recon Operators averaged 5′8″ to 5′10″, 150–175 lbs. SEALS were 5′10″ to 6′2″, 170–210 lbs.

In general, we could outrun and out power-walk the SEALS, but they could swim circles around us. They were better at push-ups. We were better at pull-ups and rope climbing. We were about equal in sit-ups.


  • 10-mile trail run, Boots and Shorts—75 minutes.
  • 5 mile run in the soft beach sand—45 minutes.
  • 25 pull-ups, palms forward, full extension, no bouncing—60 seconds.
  • 50 bent knee sit-ups, feet secured—2 minutes.
  • 50 push-ups, chest touching floor, no bouncing—2 minutes.


  • Power Walk up hills. Come down slowly. DO NOT RUN DOWN! (You can injure your joints running down).
  • Run up hills. Come down slowly. DO NOT RUN DOWN!
  • Power Walk on the soft beach sand.
  • Run on the soft beach sand.
  • Power Climb the stairs in tall buildings. DO NOT WALK OR RUN DOWN! Take the elevator down (it’s too easy to trip coming down the stairs, especially when you get tired).
  • Lift Weights and do Flexibility exercises.
  • If you can afford it, hire a fitness trainer.