KNOW HOW FIT YOU ARE – SIMPLE SELF ASSESSMENT
To establish a baseline level of fitness and know how fit you are, simple self assessment will help. In How To Be Your Own Personal Trainer and earlier posts, I have addressed the first 3 of the 6 steps in this process. Step #4, is doing your own base-line assessment and this post will be your “how to” self-assessment guide.
It is important to know where you are NOW fitness wise, so that you can build a SAFE and PRACTICAL fitness routine, that will lead you to SUCCESS.
HOW TO ASSESS AEROBIC CAPACITY
Aerobic capacity measures how efficiently your body uses oxygen. You need to know how fit your lungs are currently to work towards improvement. You can do this in your home with a 3-minute step test OR you can choose to go out for a walk and do the 1-mile walk test. I will describe them both, you choose. Only 1 is necessary.
3-minute step test – go to a set of stairs in your house, with your phone in hand or close by. Set the timer on the phone for 3 minutes. Go up and down one step (like you might see in a step class) for the full three minutes. When you are done, immediately take your heart rate for 1 minute. This test has been based on a 12 inch step, but with the goal of simplicity, any step will give you a baseline. The fitter you are, the faster your heart rate will return to normal when you stop. Therefore, you need to take it at several intervals after as well. SparkePeople has charts to help you assess where your aerobic fitness level is. Then, repeat the test, perhaps monthly after you begin exercise, to assess your progress.
1-mile walk test – This is very simple. Go out for a 1- mile walk and time yourself. Walk as quickly as you can, safely. Record your time. Do this again, perhaps monthly, after you begin fitness training, to assess your progress. Your 1-mile walk time will get quicker, with increased fitness.
ASSESS ANAEROBIC CAPACITY
What You Need to Know About Anaerobic Exercise, at Healthline.com will give you a very good overview of what anerobic means. All exercises to improve your strength are anaerobic. This would include calisthenics, yoga, stretching etc.
Self-assessment will require knowing the strength and stamina of your muscle groups and also, their flexibility at baseline.
To test muscle endurance and strength, I suggest testing your leg, abdominal and arm strength/endurance. This is very simply done with 1-minute sets of 3 exercises.
A squat, done while protecting your knees, works all the muscles in your legs. You can do chair squats if necessary for this self assessment. Using your phone, set a timer for 1 minute and see how many squats you can do. Record your result.
PUSH-UP (modify if needed)
A push-up, carried out either with full or modified weight lifted, repeated as many times as possible in 1 minute, will test your upper body strength. The arms and shoulders are used to complete this move. If you cannot do a FULL push-up you can either lift your body weight only from the KNEES (in a wedge position) or from you HIPS, in an on-all-fours position. Record your result and which position you tested yourself in.
In order to test your core muscles, you can do sit-ups or crunches. Sit-ups are known to be stressful on the neck and crunches are less so. Be sure to be looking straight up to the ceiling while you carry out your crunches, as this will help you isolate your neck muscles. See how many crunches you can carry out in 1 minute. Also, pay attention and make note of how much of your upper body lifts off of the floor, when you crunch your abdominal muscles. A strong core, helps you to have a strong back and exercises to improve both, will have positive effect on this. Record your results.
ASSESSMENT OF FLEXIBILITY
This assessment is not about how many reps you can do or how long you can do a specific exercise, but how flexible you currently are. Flexibility is extremely important to practical fitness.
#1. Stand tall, with good posture. Tighten your core and bend over to touch your toes. DO NOT over stretch, go as far as is comfortable for you. You can breathe and stretch 3 x to increase your position. Make note of how close to touching your toes you were after the 3rd movement. Were you able to stretch to touch your knees, your ankles, your toes or could you place your palms on the floor, in complete stretching position!
#2. Sit on the floor. Open your legs in front of you in a comfortable “V” position. With a straight back, stretch your arms out in front of you, along the floor, making note of how far you can stretch, in relation to the “V.” You can breathe and stretch and breathe and stretch, 3 times. Each time, you will be able to stretch a little further out. Can you stretch out as far as your knees, as far as your ankles, or past your feet? Make note, as the improvement in this distance will be used as a marker to assess your flexibility.
TWO MEASURES OF PROGRESS
Knowing how fit you are, simple self assessment, as you work towards becoming more fit, gives you important information regarding progress. There are 2 important ways you can assess your progress.
The first is to assess yourself OBJECTIVELY. Assess the facts, by comparing your progress to the notes you have taken with regards to the baseline assessment done. Can you walk a mile faster now, than before you began your program? Is your heart rate improved after 3 minutes of stepping? Are you able to complete more squats, push-ups and crunches in 1 minute, after having trained to improve fitness? Are you able to stretch further?
SUBJECTIVE assessment is about how you feel. This is NOT about numbers or seconds or distances, but about how YOU FEEL after working your body to become more fit. If you feel better, you have succeeded. Exercise, in and of itself, can improve not only physical fitness, but mental health fitness too!
I am a HUGE proponent of simplification. Simplifying your life, creates space for the things you want in your life, rather than JUST all the things you need or are stressing about. Simple solutions to stressful issues are without a doubt, the road to improved wellness.
A fitness routine may be a walk 3 times a week. It may be self-teaching yoga. You may start a stretching practice. Maybe you will improve strength and do calisthenics or light weight lifting. What you do and how you do it, is your choice. You are the trainer, the decision maker and the BENEFICIARY of your efforts.
This article is part of a 4-part series.