Sailors can expect physical fitness assessments to pick up again in March 2021, according to Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Navy initially announced in March 2020 that it was postponing its spring cycle of the Navy’s PFA. Ultimately, the pandemic prompted the Navy to eliminate all physical fitness tests for the rest of 2020.

“We’re looking at for the PFA, based upon feedback and risk-to-mission, risk-to-force, right?" Nowell said during a Facebook live “town hall” event Tuesday. "Risk-to-mission — we’ve gone a year without it, so we know that we really do need to go ahead and get that going again.”

Sailors were gearing up for PFAs to kick off again in the new year after Nowell said in September the fitness exams would resume in January 2021. But given the rising number of COVID-19 cases, Nowell said Tuesday, the Navy will not proceed with two cycles of PFAs starting in January and instead, will opt for one cycle starting in March.

“January is still right in the middle of flu season and so we are close to the formal approval to go ahead and get the word out that we will do one cycle next year,” Nowell said. “It will start toward the middle of March — so after flu season, when it’s warm enough — as we look at doing it for about six months, through September, so you can get outside and do it, mitigate that risk.”

Sailors can also brace themselves for the introduction of several new elements to physical fitness tests come 2021, such as the flexibility to use the rowing machine as an additional cardio option. Likewise, the Navy has chosen planks in lieu of curl ups — a change that was in place prior to the pandemic.

“We’re going to do planks, not curl ups, so you won’t be in someone’s face … that then kind of keeps you pretty safe,” Nowell said.

The CNP said in July that scoring tables for planks will start at approximately one minute and will max out at approximately three and half minutes.

Despite the pause in PFAs, Nowell has routinely urged sailors to stay active and utilize free fitness apps available from the Navy App Locker.

“Canceling the PRT should not be seen as an excuse to not exercise whenever and wherever possible,” Nowell said in a video in July. “Do some planks at home, go jogging, eat healthy … whatever you need to do to do your best to stay in shape and within our physical fitness standards is what we expect you to do.”

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