The History of the NAVY PRT

Roosevelt on horse back, one of the proposed tests of endurance!

At NAVY-PRT.com we take pride in keeping you up to date on the current changes to the PRT. In this post, however, we are going back in time to give you a bit of history on the NAVY PRT and Teddy Roosevelt’s ideas for a military endurance test. 

Roosevelt advocated for a “strenuous life”

In 1908 then President Roosevelt, disturbed by the lack of fitness in the nation’s military proposed a change. He observed a “desk bound” culture and decided to work to implement an endurance style test for officers. Passing the test would be a requirement for promotion.

Roosevelt himself was a fitness fanatic. He loved taking exercise to the extreme. His favorite sports included boxing, climbing, horseback riding, polo and rowing. There are many humorous stories about the president and his quest to “live a strenuous life.” Did you know he had a boxing ring set up at the white house and frequently challenged professional prize fighters? Roosevelt’s life is fascinating. If you are interested in learning more consider this DODreads.com recommend book!

Roosevelt proposed a 3 part endurance test where Navy men would choose one activity. They could walk 50 miles, ride 90 miles on horseback or bike 100 miles. Each test was over the course of three days. Roosevelt was adamant that a single day activity did nothing to prove a sailors condition- it was the ability to walk, ride or bike on subsequent days that showed fitness.

Critics of the plan suggested instead encouraging sailors to play golf or opening bowling and tennis facilities at Navy bases. Other suggestions included gymnasiums and having weights equipment available for sailors to use. It’s important to consider the culture of the time. Today the Navy prides itself on maintaining a culture of fitness and  physical readiness. However, 100 years ago sports for the sake of sports or exercise for the sake of exercise was a relatively novel idea, and one that got quite a bit of resistance.

Roosevelt left office in 1909 and his endurance test was never fully implemented. Much to his chagrin, the test was watered down and modified. The final version barely resemble his original plan. The test consisted of a 10 mile march that Navy personnel must complete in under 10 hours, 2.5 mile per hour pace.  The test suspended all together in 1917 at the onset of World War 1 and was not reintroduced for 50 years! 

Think about the history of the NAVY PRT while training next time and be grateful that at least it is only a couple hours max, and not three days!

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