Having some tangible insight into your own level of fitness can do things like help you avoid injury. But you can also use fitness tests, repeated at regular intervals, to get a better idea of how effective your training program is. In this episode, I explain the 10 components of fitness and how you can measure them.
Right off the bat, I am going to say this: the point of this episode is not to start some sort of measuring contest between me and you or you and your friends on social media. The point of measuring your fitness is more complex than that.
First, having an initial test result when you start a new exercise program or movement regimen can give you a baseline, so future testing can be compared to this and any changes you make can be quantified.
Second, establishing this baseline can be especially important if you are embarking on a new training regimen and have no idea where to start. Do you do 3 sets of 15 reps with 40kg or half that (or double that)? Having this insight into your own fitness level can help you avoid injury from the good old “too much, too soon” situation.
For added fun-with-data (who doesn’t love that?), you can repeat the tests at regular intervals, to see how effective your training program really is. The period between tests may range from two weeks to six months to maybe even yearly. Just keep in mind that it usually takes a minimum of four to six weeks to see a measurable change in any aspect of fitness so don’t do them too often or you may be taxing your body unnecessarily and get bummed out by the seeming lack of progress.
My Second Wind Fitness Challenge
This will work best if you can bring someone with you to run the stopwatch. They will time each station of the test, and your overall time – including how long you take between stations. This means you will want to do all of these with minimal breaks between exercises to keep your overall time low (I found a soccer field and playground near my home that allows me to do all of these movements without the need for massive relocations between):
30 Push-Ups: Be sure your body is in a straight line plank position at all times. Lower your chest all the way to the ground for each rep.
20 Squat Jumps: Take off and land with both feet together. Strive for both height and length. Make sure you land in balance on the balls of your feet to prevent jarring your back. It is ok to swing your arms on takeoff to create momentum. For extra data, you can measure the distance you cover as well.
50 metres of Walking Lunges: Take deliberate, exaggerated steps where your rear knee lowers almost to the ground on each step. Your front knee must bend to form at least a 90-degree angle between upper and lower leg. Pump your arms on each step in an exaggerated manner to help maintain balance.
40 Mountain Climbers: Assume plank push-up position. Keeping your arms locked, drive the right knee forward to touch the right elbow, then return your leg quickly to the plank position. Repeat with your left knee to left elbow. Allow your head to rock forward slightly to compress your abdominals on each rep. One “climb” is when you have done both the right and left side. Advanced users can dip down (like a push-up) while driving the leg forward.
30 Bench Dips: Standing in front of bench (facing away from it), reach behind with straight arms and grasp front edge of the bench. Dip down, bending elbows to 90 degrees, dropping your butt in front of, and below, the bench. Then, return to extended arms position. Relax your feet and legs and let them go along for the ride, making sure that your arms apply all the force.
50 metres of Sprint Out & Bear Crawl Back: Take two round-trips out-and-back for a total of four lengths. Sprint one direction, then bear crawl to return. Keeping your back straight with butt only slightly raised, proceed with only your hands and toes touching the ground. When you reach the start/finish line, sprint out again to your landmark and crawl back to the start/finish line.
15 Pull-ups: Your choice of overhand (pull-up), underhand (chin-up), or a neutral grip. I will do overhand because it has been the biggest challenge for me. Make sure you come to a full extension at the bottom of every rep and make sure your chin goes above the bar at the top. And try not to swing your body… too much. No kipping.
50 Chair squats: Standing in front of a bench, sit down until butt barely touches the bench, then immediately stand up. Repeat the movement and accumulate your total as fast as possible. Pump arms on each rep for momentum.
25 Burpees: Begin at the bottom of the burpee, with your chest touching the ground and your body and legs straight and parallel to the ground. At the top of the burpee, your hips are fully extended position with your body and your legs are straight and perpendicular to the ground. To finish the burpee, your feet must leave the ground with your hands reaching in the air (like you just don’t care… of course).
100-metre Full Sprint: Run hard! I know you are tired but this is the last one. Empty the tank.
Write down the time it took for each station and your overall time – this is now your number to beat.
I feel good about this one. I have nothing more to add to that, at this time. In terms of measuring what I would consider “fit” this test pretty much has it covered. Plus it is something you can do on your own, for free, whenever you like and it totally counts as your workout of the day.
Please note: before you do this test (or any other one), make sure you take a good rest-and-recovery day the day before. If you go into it fatigued, you will hurt the reliability of the score. You will be measuring your fatigue not your fitness.
Also, try to do subsequent tests under the same conditions (or as close as possible). This means you should make notes on the weather, your diet, and hydration leading up to test day and perhaps even how well you slept so it is easier to recreate and be consistent. Otherwise, you will not get a valid or reliable result.
Finally, the number of reps I have chosen may not be right for you. They may be too many or too few so make sure you choose a number that is challenging for you but still attainable. The test will not be helpful or accurate if you choose a number that is too high. You want this to feel like a 10/10 not 12/10.