It is super important not to burn yourself out during the first few laps of the POPAT, and then suffer to complete the test in the time limit. At the same time, going too slowly is going to end up leaving you without any time to spare for the Push/Pull and the Vault.
Below I break down how long you should spend on each portion of the test, depending on what time you want to get.
WARNING: While these principals are universal, the specific times listed below are meant for officers taking the Police Officer Physical Abilities Test, which is a specific test and only applicable to some departments.
TIME: sub 3:45
A sub 3:45 is an ambitious time, but far from impossible. It does require a strong level of fitness, but it can be achieved by most LEO candidates if you train hard and consistently. Below are the lap times you need to hit to be able to complete the test in less than 3:45.
Agility Run Lap Times: 20-23s (Total 2:00-2:38)
Maintaining a lap pace of 20-23s will yield a time of 2:00-2:18 for the Agility Run portion of the test. This leaves you with 1:17-1:45 to complete the Push/Pull and the Vault section of the POPAT.
Go as fast as you can through the Pull. The pull is relatively easy, and a great spot to make up some time. (Don't be nice to the machine either).
Unlike the Pull, take your time on the push. I don't mean to tell you to go slowly, but instead, take your time to avoid dropping the weight. You still want to go as fast as possible, and you will need to if you want a sub 3:45 time.
The vault is where a lot of people lose the most time on the POPAT. Being so close to the end, and so exhausted, they let off the gas. Don't slow down until you have completed the test. Perform the vault as quickly as possible!
Depending on where you end up with the previous stations will determine how much time you have to spare on the Vault. If you manage to maintain the quickest pace listed above, you will have a whole 60s to tackle the vault. If you are barely managing to meet the slowest paces, you will only have 38s to complete the vault (which will be a significant challenge). If you land somewhere in between the fastest paces and the slowest you will probably end up with 40-45s of time to complete the vault, which should be plenty of time.
Total Minimum Time: 3:23
Total Maximum Time: 4:06
TIME: sub 4:00
For a sub 4:00 time, your pace for the agility run will be slower leaving you fresher for the Pull/Push station and the Vault. You will still need to go all out at the last two stations to meet your goal time, but you are starting with more left in the tank.
Agility Run Lap Time: 23-25s (Total 2:18-2:30)
Total Minimum Time: 3:42.
Total Maximum Time: 4:06
TIME: sub 4:15
Agility Run Lap Time: 22-25s (Total 2:12-2:30)
Total Minimum Time: 3:36
Total Maximum Time: 4:24
As you can see above, if you hit the MAXIMUM amount of time on each station you won't hit your time goal. You can either aim to hit somewhere in between the maximum and minimum time cap, OR take advantage of your strengths.
I have two perspectives on utilizing your strengths, wich are diametrically opposed...
Max out your strengths
Save yourself for your weaknesses.
If you choose to max out your strengths, this can leave you exhaused for the portions of the test that are more challenging, or it can leave you with extra time to tackle the hard parts. For example...
If you have killer conditioning, but the Push/Pull portion is difficult for you, you can either speed through the agility run as quickly as possible, which will leave you tired, but you will have extra time to dedicate to the Push/Pull OR
If you are very strong, you can pace yourself more moderately during the agility run and then make up time during the Push/Pull
Don't swing too far in either direction. Push yourself. Take advantage of your strengths, but don't sacrifice your performance on your weak areas by burning yourself out.
BKin, Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology CPT