How To Measure Your Fitness (And Why It's Important)

There’s an old saying what you cannot measure you cannot improve.

You must know yourself before you can choose the goals you want to achieve as otherwise how will you know which areas you need to work on?

Self-awareness helps you identify areas you maybe stronger or more capable at and areas which you may need to work on more.

Self-awareness helps identify obstacles in goal setting

Fitness testing is the best way to become self-aware in the realm of physical health and body conditioning.

Fitness has a few dimensions which can all be improved. The components of all around fitness include:

  • Healthy muscle to fat ratio (body composition).
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Balance
  • Flexibility

We can also consider expanding this selection into 12 components of physical fitness:

Titles Included:

  • The Components of Physical Fit
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Body Composition
  • Cardio-Vascular 
  • Endurance
  • Co-ordination
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular Endurance
  • PowerReaction 
  • Time
  • Speed
  • Strength

So, in order to set goals, we need self-awareness in the areas we want to improve. In fitness testing then we need to be able to track and improve across multiple areas for all round fitness.

Fitness is highly specific. To train an area of fitness usually we need to focus on this area. If we want to get more flexible, then we need to stretch more. If we want to get stronger then we’ll need to lift some weights and so on. Some forms of fitness training cross over between different fitness systems. For example, adventure obstacle racing where you run (cardio-vascular) then do something which involves strength and muscular endurance. Some strength exercises also help the muscle stretch and move in a larger range of motion, helping with flexibility.

Here are some simple at home tests you can carry out to assess your own fitness.

You can grade muscle endurance and strength with exercises like press ups and sit-ups. With a doorway chinning bar you can also learn to do and get better at chin ups. Grip strength can be developed by hanging off the bar gradually adding more of your body weight as you get stronger until your feet are off the ground. Once you can hold 30-45 seconds you can start practicing a chin up.

How fast you can walk or run distances is also a great way to challenge and track your cardiovascular fitness. Simply decide on a distance and then try and do it faster. A mile walk is a good place to start.

The key things to consider when deciding on what aspects of fitness to test are:

Is it specific to my needs and current levels of fitness? E.g., I’m not going to test a 5km run time if I can’t run 1km without getting out of puff.

Do the tests I’ve selected cover the 6 main fitness areas? You can decide on more tests as well but covering the 6 main areas is key.

Can I perform the tests without getting injured? This ties into point 1. Warm up properly and choose tests which are within your current fitness capabilities.

To test muscular endurance in your pushing muscles, press ups are a good way to do this. You can do press ups against a wall on the floor as ¾ press ups from the knees. Or full press ups. Press ups are a highly functional and variable exercise. They can be done anywhere too. 

As with all exercises these need to be strictly performed with good form, range of motion and tempo. I can bang out 100 mini press ups but only 20 full strict, chest to the floor press ups for example.

If you are already quite fit, you can think about the yo-yo test.

Or Bleep Test:

There are literally 100’s of different ways to assess fitness levels here’s a few of them.

Ongoing tracking and progressions. Keeping a “Hall of Fame” in mind helps you to track many aspects of your fitness on an ongoing basis.

Some follow along programmes will include their own fitness test as part of the programme. One of these for those of you on the fitter end of the spectrum include Insanity Fitness:

Insanity fitness test:

One of the bests ways to include all over body weight strength and endurance progressions is via training for calisthenics. A great method of graded intensities around different body areas can be learned from Convict Conditioning by Paul Coach Wade.

Tags: fitness, Goals