A fresh fitness program is like a map to get you where you want to go. Whether it’s preparing for an event, losing a few pounds or trying to accomplish a personal goal that has been just out of grasp, it always feels good to start something new.
Now for the level-up question: Are you making progress?
The answer is, maybe, but how do you know for sure? Programs are usually just a list of exercises organized so you know what to do each day. They rarely set you up for success by creating a baseline that you can measure against as you progress.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure….
Have no fear! There are five easy ways that you can quickly assess your fitness level at the start of a new program:
1. BASELINE: Resting Heart Rate1
Knowing your resting heart rate is a great baseline to assess your fitness and set goals in your efforts, especially if you are looking to improve your cardio and endurance. An average RHR is between 60-100 bpm and in general, the more aerobically fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate. You can track RHR easily each week, first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.
- Locate the pulse in your neck (start with your fingers on your throat under your chin and take two finger walking steps to the side of your neck)
- Use your index and middle finger to feel the pulse
- Look at your watch and count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to get your heart rate per minute
2. CARDIO: 1.5 Mile Run1
Cardiovascular fitness for those that are not elite athletes is one of the most important indicators of health. The easiest way to gauge your fitness level is by getting out and taking a run, a 1.5 mile run to be exact. The times below represent “fit” averages for men and women by age.
3. STRENGTH ENDURANCE (Pushing): Pushup1
Pushing is a practical fitness movement that gets used a lot in life though seldom is a single, maximal effort required. What is more common is the ability to push a moderate load repeatedly. These two strength qualities, maximum strength and strength endurance are very different. Unless you are a strength athlete, strength endurance is far more relevant. Enter the pushup test. Push-ups are a great strength endurance test and can be completed with minimal equipment and space. Rep out as many as you can and if you are not able to do more than five in a regular position, start with your knees on the ground. The rep ranges below represent “fit” averages for men and women by age.
4. STRENGTH (Pulling): Pullup2
The ability to pull is more often related to single efforts than pushing. When you pull on something in life, it is usually a forceful effort. Therefore, we want to measure pulling strength based on a higher load and effort than we do pushing. This makes pull-ups a great test for upper body pulling strength. Struggling to rep out pull-ups? No problem, check out our Intro to Tough Mudder 5K program that is geared toward building pulling strength.
5. CORE: Plank
Core strength is fundamental to good movement. A strong core means good support and no energy leaks as you run, jump, climb and reach for things on tall shelves. Practical core strength is also measured best in terms of strength endurance. We want stability over time. To assess core strength in this way, a two minute (2:00) plank is our guide. Hold a plank position for as long as you can, not the time that you start to shake and the maximum time you can hold it (up to two minutes). The more stable you are, the longer it will take for you to start shaking, the stronger you are, the longer you can hold it.
These tests represent a holistic look at your level of fitness to help you set a baseline as you start a new program. This way, you can see if the program is working and you are getting stronger in the right areas. These tests, however, are not the be all and end all. The most important thing is that you are getting better toward your ultimate goal. This cannot always be tested by the above standards, these are just a place to start.
With the new year upon us, take the opportunity to embark on a new journey and accomplish something big. Assess your fitness, set goals, and start tracking goals today. And then join us on a Tough Mudder course to kick some serious ass.