How to Track Your Fitness Progress

There are a lot of different ways to figure out whether or not you’re making progress through your fitness regimen that don’t include measuring tape or stepping on a scale. I’m at the point in my personal trainer “training” journey where I’m learning how to administer fitness assessments for my clients. I wanted to better familiarize myself with the tests, so I decided to take a few of them myself and make them into a workout!

I do believe that it’s important to have performance goals as well as weight-loss goals when it comes to measuring progress. I think that getting stronger and faster are also important goals to have in order to thoroughly track progress. This battery of tests will help you track whether or not you’ve improved your strength and endurance throughout your fitness journey. This week’s workout is a tough one. I hope you’re ready!

WARM-UP: 5 MINUTES (ELLIPTICAL, BIKE, ROWER)

It’s important to warm-up your muscles properly before starting any strenuous form of exercise. It helps prepare your heart and muscles to handle the impending shock of demanding exercise. That preparation helps to prevent injury as well. In this case, since I was planning on doing run, I felt it was best to spend maybe five minutes on the bike or elliptical. Either works, just make sure you move at a pace that isn’t too difficult and allows you to ease your body into exercising and raise your heart rate.

FIRST TEST: CURL-UP TEST

The first test in our performance assessment test battery is the curl-up test. Not to be confused with the sit-up test, which actually requires more effort than necessary to gauge fitness level and could potentially cause injury. According to the American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition, a curl-up is considered a more adequate indication of abdominal strength and endurance. In order to complete this test you must complete as many curl-ups as you can until failure (basically, when you can no longer complete the exercise while maintaining the proper form).

First, lie supine on your back with your arms crossed across your chest and your knees up in a 90-degree angle.
Next, lift your back and shoulder blades off the ground to about a 30-degree angle.

Directions: Start on your back in a relaxed position with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and cross your arms over your chest. To do the curl-up from this position, you must lift your shoulder blades off the ground to about 30-degrees and then lower your shoulders and torso back down. Do not let your head touch the ground. Repeat until failure.

From American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition
From American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition

My Results: When I completed this test, I was able to do 60 curl-ups. That amount is consistent with a “Excellent” fitness rating in my age group (26-35), according to the YMCA Fitness Testing and Assessment Manual, 4th Edition.

SECOND TEST: PUSH UP TEST

A push is an excellent method of evaluating one’s upper-body endurance, “specifically of the pectoralis muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids” (American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition, 234). According to my manual, it’s best for women to do the modified push-up, but I felt like challenging myself so I did the regular push instead. This test is like the previous, you go until you can no longer maintain your form.

Start with hands on ground, shoulder width apart.
Lower yourself Push up vertically and return to starting position.

Directions: Place your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart or directly under the shoulders. Make sure your hips and shoulders are aligned and keep your head neutral. Lower yourself so your arms form a 90-degree angle and your biceps/triceps are parallel with the ground. Push up once and return to the starting position. Repeat until failure.

From American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition

Results: I was able to do about 25 push-ups in the regular format, which is considered “Very Good” for the 20-29 year old woman age group, according to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

THIRD TEST: BODY-WEIGHT SQUAT TEST

The body-weight squat test is used to assess “muscular endurance of the lower extremity when performing repetition of a squat and stand movement” (American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition, 238). Feel free to stand next to or in front of a mirror in order to evaluate the deepness of your squat.

First, start standing up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
Bend your knees and lower yourself so your thighs are parallel with the ground.

Directions: First stand up straight with feet hip-width apart and lower yourself down while maintaining your balance and ensuring that your thighs are parallel with the floor. Raise back up again and repeat until failure.

From American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition

Results: I was able to do about 100 squats which is considered excellent condition for a woman according to the American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition.

1.5 MILE RUN TEST

The 1.5 Mile Run test is usually used by the US Navy to evaluate the cardiovascular fitness levels of its personnel. The test basically measures cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance of the legs. The goal is to run 1.5 miles as fast as possible. It’s preferred to complete this test on a track or outside so that distance and speed are more naturally assessed. You can do this on a treadmill, but make sure you identify a goal time ahead and start out going at that pace and make adjustments as necessary to achieve that time.

I don’t have access to a track so I’ll be using the MapMyRun app for the iPhone to track how far I’ve run. Basically I’m going to just run until I can’t run anymore and my route is pretty much go anywhere as long as I don’t have to stop.

Directions: Identify a route and RUN!

From American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, 5th Edition

Results: I was able to complete my run in 11 mins, 24 seconds (11:24), which aligns with the 80-90th percentile of women in the 20-29 age group according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

COOL DOWN: 5 MINUTES

Annddd… you’re just about done! Take this time to really think about your results and tell yourself, “YOU MADE IT!” Since there was so much running in this workout, I opt’d for a cool down on the elliptical, but if you’re not tired of running, feel free to do a little five minute jog. It’s important to cool down because it helps your heart rate decline and begins to cool your muscles.

STRETCH

Oh, and don’t forget to stretch. You did a lot of work today, so be sure to stretch out those muscles to improve flexibility, ensure muscle growth, and prevent injury later. Strive to hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds each since you did a lot of work today. Focus on the legs and arms mainly, but feel free to stretch out those abs as well!

And that’s it! You’re done! How do you feel about your results? As I said, the scale and measuring tape aren’t the only ways for you to assess your fitness gains. It’s important to assess your performance as well to insure that you are building the proper muscle and endurance as well. Try this battery of test at least once a month to see how much you’ve progressed.

Author: Robyn

All great things start with a leap of faith.

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