Harmony with Fox News: the Haynesworth Test

A reporter for the local Fox TV station did something I'd been thinking about, which nudged me to try it myself. She took the "Haynesworth test."


Le tout Washington DC is in a snarl about the standoff between Albert Haynesworth, the Redskins' hyper-talented defensive lineman, and Mike Shanahan, the new coach. Haynesworth, theoretically the most dominant player on the team but one who radiates Bad Attitude, skipped all off-season training sessions; Shanahan is either putting him in shape, or hazing him, by making him pass a "conditioning test" before he can practice with the rest of the team. Haynesworth has now failed two or three straight times.

When it comes to "tests" that professional athletes take, usually the standards are so inconceivably high that they seem impossible for mortal humans to contemplate. Hundreds of pushups or pullups; throwing a baseball farther than I can see; running an entire marathon at a faster pace than I can hold for half a mile; delivering -- or returning -- a 130-mph tennis serve. There's no place to imagine what it would really be like.

But Lindsay Murphy, the Fox reporter, thought as I did that the Haynesworth test didn't sound so impossible. It's a back-to-back set of two 300-yard "shuttle sprints." You run 25 yards in one direction; touch the ground; and run back. You repeat that for six nonstop round trips (a total of 300 yards). Then after a short rest, you do it again. The "test" is to do the first one in 70 seconds; and then, after a 3 1/2 minute rest, do the second in 72 seconds. 

As shown below, Murphy made the first pass in under 70 seconds, then got tired and missed the 72-second standard for the second one. But, still. More info here and here.

So this afternoon I tried it too. I went to a football field, got set on the goal line and looked down to the 25, and took out my stopwatch. I just barely made it, in both the first and second passes, but I did meet the time standards. It wasn't easy, and by the fifth and sixth round trips each time I was really breathing hard. But unlike most pro-athlete standards it wasn't just completely out of reach.

This doesn't say anything about Haynesworth or his skills. He's carrying a lot more pounds than I am, though I am carrying a lot more years. He's one of the most gifted of today's pro athletes, and this is about the only conceivable athletic test where he could even be measured on the same scale as a regular person. Still, it's nice that there is at least one physical test where we could think we'd match a pro. Consider giving it a try yourself. (If you have any experience running, the time-limit won't be that terrible; and the 3.5 minute recovery is probably a proxy for aerobic exercise in general.) 

This is also a reminder for the long-promised "running in the post-Achilles injury era" update, about which more shortly.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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