Anyone who decides to embark on a fitness regime of any type (be it weight loss, general health or athletic performance) will start with at least a rough idea of a goal they wish to achieve. While access to a personal trainer can ensure that your goals are both realistic and responsible, we must all create some form of standard for which to judge our performance over time. Initial and regular fitness assessments (comprising of body composition, cardio, resistance and flexibility assessments as well as nutrition and well-being analysis) provide us with:
An accurate assessment of where we are starting from (most individuals tend to be a little kinder to their relative fitness levels if not objectively assessed)
A guide by which to identify success and achievement (one of the greatest motivating factors) and
The ability to structure your training program for your specific goals, requirements, experience and development.
The Starting Block – Pre-Training AssessmentsBefore you embark on your fitness program there are two main assessments you will want to make:A medical assessment performed by your physician or health care professional. These are particularly vital in ‘untrained’ persons as physical activity and changes to your diet can bring on injuries and negative symptoms in some people, although every person should take the opportunity to discuss their fitness regime with their health professional.Your starting point, or pre training fitness assessment. In one of your first sessions with a personal trainer, or prior to commencing your program, you should attempt to assess some vital physical components in order to track your progress and set tailored training and nutritional programs. These assessments will include:
Current Status Screening (health and fitness questionnaire covering your current activities and conditions)
Body Composition (you may also want to consider ‘before’ photos in this assessment
Muscular Strength and Endurance
Nutritional habits (not all programs will require this)
Body CompositionBody composition is probably the most useful for the average person who embarks on a fitness regime for the purposes of losing weight or toning up. Almost all personal trainers will assess your body composition before commencing a program with you for three main reasons. Not surprisingly, these reflect the main outcomes of the full assessment – an ability to discover a starting position, the guide by which to test results and the ability to structure the training program for specific areas. In its truest sense body composition analysis is an important part of your fitness assessment because it shows how much fat you carry on your body in relation to your muscle mass, however basic variances can be used here for at home or distance programs such as body part circumferences (typically waist, hip, neck, chest, upper and fore arm, thigh and calf), height to waist ratios, hip to weight ratios, clothing size and trusty before and after photographs. Some of these are also able to be used to approximate body fat percentages through specific equations.Make sure that you use the same method for measurement to judge your results over time. Some of these methods may give different results depending on technique, however if you keep the same method throughout you will be better able to judge your improvement. While there are more accurate measures available to professionals you will be able to get a good sense of your results if you apply integrity to your testing.Cardiovascular Endurance, Flexibility and Muscular Strength and EnduranceThere are a number of different ways to measure and assess you cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscular strength and muscular endurance. While detailing them all could easily fill an article of its own, these assessments provide a great understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in a person’s fitness and also provide a functional tests for performance and progress. Many of these assessments can be performed away from the gym and there are a number of generic activities that require neither equipment nor expertise to accomplish them.NutritionWhile not all fitness programs will incorporate a strict diet, attention to this aspect of your health can and will boost your chances of success exponentially. There are a number of different steps you can take in this process but first you MUST identify your eating habits – both good and bad. A food diary for 7 days will help you identify the areas you need to improve and those you need to maintain focus on. Something simple like removing soda from your diet can help you lose at least a pound a week – even without training. A FREE food diary is available from Fitness Fahey’s, but all you really need is a pen and a piece of paper and start recording EVERYTHING you put in your mouth – no cheats.
Once you have completed a food diary for a week, most people will be able to see the damage some areas of their diet is doing to them, while using a nutrition specialist or speaking to a health professional or qualified personal trainer can give you specific directions for the greatest improvements.ConclusionWhile performance and body tone/shape is largely the result of the physical work that you do, nutrition accounts for at least 70% of your weight gains and losses and a carefully managed eating plan, combined with a structured training program is your best chance to succeed in your weight loss, health and fitness journey.Initial and continual analysis is the key that drives the engine on your way to your health, fitness and weight loss goals. It is an often underappreciated discipline in the journey to success but is a vital one. Understanding your TRUE starting point is the only real way to determine achievement, and continual assessment allows your trainer to develop programs that will see you reach your goals in the shortest possible time. The motivation provided by seeing tangible results before your eyes is astonishing, and whether you simply take a photograph of yourself at various stages, take the tape measure to your areas of concern, time yourself running a few laps of the local park or seek professional assistance in determining your true current state, progression and success, you must be using fitness assessment and analysis tools in your training program if you truly want to be successful.