This weekend I will be running in an obstacle-based endurance race with a few friends; Some of my friends have asked me, “Do you think I’m ready to do this?”- to which I can only reply “Do you think you can do it?”. My point being- only you can judge your training levels. You can’t always compare your fitness levels to someone else, and even if you do, you can’t base your level of fitness off of an assumption. So how do you know if you’re ‘fit enough’? Well, there are a few standardized ways to evaluate certain parts of your fitness. In this article form Fitness Magazine, Carey Rossi provides you with an excellent ‘take home’ test, to help you get an idea of your fitness level. This is by no means a crazy fitness routine or the end-all of tests to judge your abilities, it’s just a few simple ways to see where you fall on the average levels of health and fitness. Enjoy!
You- Only Fitter
Which of us hasn’t looked over at the woman on the next treadmill or beach chair and wondered who’s in better shape? Do this quickie checkup to instantly learn how honed, happy and healthy your body is- without challenging your gym mate to a race or even leaving your living room. If you fall short in any area, whether it’s a cardio drill, push-up contest or flex test, try our experts’ tips to raise your game a notch. Now turn the page and let’s see whatcha got!
How’s Your Ticker?
1. Recovery Heart Rate- You don’t have to hit the track for a speed trial to test your cardiovascular fitness. Try a scientific drill that trainers use: Get a 12-18-inch-high step (a chair or bench will also work) and step on and off if for three minutes nonstop. Use both feet to maintain a peppy up-up-down-down pace. Rest for exactly one minute, then immediately take your pulse for 30 seconds. (Press your pointer and middle finger against your wrist and count the beats.) Plug the number of beats into this equation to get your score: 18,000 ÷ (beats x 5.6).
Poor (1 point) Fair (2 points) Good (3 points)
. 28-38 39-59 ≥60
Exercise Rx: Pump up your body’s cardio capacity with interval training, says Laura Mak, a trainer in Marina del Ray, California. Use her 20-minute cardio workout while doing your fave aerobic activity (walking, running, biking, swimming, elliptical, stairclimber): Warm up for three minutes, then alternate going as fast as you can for 30 seconds with going at an easy pace for 1 minute. Repeat nine times, then cool down for 3 minutes. As you get stronger, gradually increase the speed bursts to one minute.
2. Cardio Endurance- To find the staying power of your heart and lungs, see how long you can do squat lungs without stopping: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat, then immediately jump up. Repeat until you need a breather.
. Poor Fair Good
≤10 secs 11-19 sec ≥20 sec
Exercise Rx: Work on upping your mileage when you go for a walk or run, adding up to 10 percent more time or distance each week, suggests Jimmy Pena, an exercise physiologist in Los Angeles. Follow our 5k or 10k running plan at fitnessmagazine.com/endurance. Or incorporate these squat jumps into your upper-body-toning workouts for the heart-revving benefits of circuit training, Pena suggests. Do 10 squat jumps between sets.
Are You Made Of Muscle?
3. Upper-Body Strength- Take this push-up test from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) to judge the power of your top half. Start facedown on the floor with your hands under your shoulders, elbows bent, toes curled under. Do as many full push-ups as you can.
Age Poor Fair Good
20-29 ≤9 10-14 ≥15
30-39 ≤7 8-12 ≥13
40-49 ≤4 5-10 ≥11
Exercise Rx: Build up your chest and arms by doing bench presses: Lie faceup on a bench or the floor and press dumbbells up. Pick a weight that makes it challenging to do 12 reps. Add weight as you progress. Or practice your push-ups with this progression from Alan Russell, director of training and development for the National Academy of Sports Medicine: Pause at various levels during the pushups- with arms fully extended, with elbows bent 45 degrees and with elbows bent 90 degrees. Hold each position for 10 seconds. Rest, then repeat the series three to five times.
4. Core Strength– Sit-up tests are more about your six-pack muscle (rectus abdominis) than about the true stability of your center. For a better gauge, place your watch in front of you on the floor and hold a full push-up position (balancing on hands and feet, arms extended) as long as you can.
. Poor Fair Good
≤60 secs 60-90 sec ≥90 sec
Exercise Rx: Expand your ab repertoire beyond crunches to target the entirety of your core- and finally achieve flat abs.
5. Leg Strength– Try this modified long jump to determine the power of your legs. Russel says: Lay a yardstick on the floor and stand on your right leg beside on end of the stick. Take a big hop toward the other end. This is your measurement for the right leg. Repeat with your left leg and record the results for both legs.
. Poor Fair Good
<1 foot 1-2 feet >2 feet
Exercise Rx: “It’s likely that one side will perform better than the other,” Russell says. “The general rule of thumb is that the ‘weaker’ side should be at least 90 percent of the ‘stronger’ side.” To even things out and strengthen both legs, Russell suggests first doing 30-second stretches that target your calves, hips and back (get them at fitnessmagazine.com/flex), then single-leg exercises, such as hopping on one leg in several directions and standing on one leg as you reach for your foot with the opposite hand.
Are You Limber?
6. Trunk Rotation- You know whether you can touch you toes, but an often overlooked area of flexibility is your middle, which is key to a healthy back. (Being able to rotate to the same degree to the left and the right prevents muscle imbalances along the sides of the back that can later lead to aches.) To see if your center has its full range of motion, try this test from Fitness advisory board member Vonda Wright, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh: Put a piece of tape vertically on a wall at around chest level. Stand an arm’s length from the wall with your spine facing the tape. Extend both arms directly in front of you at shoulder level. With your feet planted, twist your torso to the right and touch the wall behind you with your right fingertips; as you face the wall, see how far to the right of the tape your fingers touch. Repeat with your left arm, noting how far to the left of the tape you touch, and record both scores.
. Poor Fair Good
<2 inches 2-4 inches >4 inches
Exercise Rx: Add this spinal twist to your postworkout stretches, Mark suggests: Sit on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the outside of your left leg. Keeping your spine straight, bring your left elbow over to the outside of your right knee and place your right palm on the floor behind your hips. Gently rotate your torso to the right and hold 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Can You Pinch Less Than An Inch?
7. Waist Circumference– You’ve heard it before: Belly fat not only is a bikini bummer but also may up your risk for heart disease and diabetes. To test whether yours is on the right side of the healthy divide, wrap a tape measure around the thinnest part of your waist; this is usually level with your belly button but may be slightly above for some women.
Poor (high risk) Good (low risk)
. > 35 inches < 35 inches
Exercise Rx: Erasing fat around your middle means trimming down all over through diet and exercise. The good news? Women may find ab fat easier to melt off than pudge in other areas. And before you panic, says physiologist Richard T. Cotton, Ph.D., the national director of certification at ACSM, look at all the body-composition measurements in tests 7, 8 and 9 together to get the full picture of your health: “If you hit two of the three within the good range, then you’re probably in good shape.”
8. Waist-To-Hip Ratio- This is another marker of whether you’re storing more fat in your belly than is healthy. To determine your ratio, divide your waist-circumference, which you get by wrapping the tape measure around the widest part of your hips.
Poor Fair Good
> .85 .81-.85 <.80
Exercise Rx: Shrinking your waist is the way to achieve improvement in this score, not to mention in your silhouette. Keep up a combination of diet and exercise and repeat the two tests above once a month to see your progress.
9. Body Mass Index– Your body mass index, or BMI, is the standard used to determine whether you’re at a healthy weight. To calculate it, plug your weight and height into this formula: (____ pounds ÷ (_____ inches)2) x 703. For an average woman, who’s 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds, that figure comes out to 24.
. Poor Good
<18.5 or ≥25 18.5-24.9
Exercise Rx: “The problem with BMI is that it doesn’t take muscle mass into account,” Cotton says, meaning if you’re supertoned, like Serena Williams, you are leaner and healthier than your score gives you credit for. If excess flab is more to blame, cutting 500 calories from your daily diet and upping your calorie burn by 500 calories a day will help you lose two pounds a week.
Your Checkup Scorecard
Tally your good (3 points), fair (2 points) and poor (1 point) ratings here to see where you rank.
1. Recovery heart rate………………………………………….
2. Cardio endurance…………………………………………….
3. Upper-body strength………………………………………..
4. Core strength…………………………………………………..
5. Leg strengt……………………………. Left……. Right……
6. Trunk rotation………………………..Left……. Right……
7. Waist Circumference…………………………………………
9. Body mass index………………………………………………
How did you do?
28-33 You’re in superstar shape. Give yourself a pat on the back for that six-pack.
18-27 Looking good! Target your trouble spots with our expert drills, then take the test again next month.
11-17 You’ve got room to improve,, but you get props for taking the first step. Knowing your starting point is the best way to build progress. Use our Rx plan as your road map you’ll ace this exam in no time.