To make consistent strides towards a goal, you first need to determine where your first stride is. The fitness industry makes a big deal about destinations without much regard to where you are starting. How can you book a flight without knowing both the departure and arrival locations? Advertisements make it seem like where you currently are does not matter. It is all about six-pack abs in six weeks and an inch off your arms in four weeks. What if you already have a six-pack; can you get another six-pack in six weeks?
It is a little ridiculous, but it’s import to know where you are and where you want to go. Where you currently stand makes the job of determining your destination easier since you now have two points. It’s much more efficient to be able to draw a path on a map if you have points to connect. The industry always talks about goals but are you fit?
How to Define Your Fitness Goals
Fitness is task specific. You can be fit for a powerlifting competition but step on a starting line for a half-marathon, it might change whether you consider yourself fit or not. With that in mind, are your goals fitness specific or health? Fitness is easier to develop and train for. When assessing your current fitness, stack it up against your own goals. If your fitness goal is to bench three hundred pounds, then stop worrying about a six-pack. Look at your current bench numbers, not the mirror. Like-wise if you want abs, stop only doing the bench press. The path must represent the goal, sure if you want a six-pack, benching could get you there someday possibly or you could develop a plan that specifically addresses body fat. It is the difference between efficient and effective.
Ditch the comparisons
Don’t get caught up with what others are doing. If your goal is to bench three hundred then it might take you months or years to do versus the guy next to you. That is okay, that guy might be starting closer to the destination. This is your path and journey so make it yours and own it. Focus on you because that is all you can control.
Your starting point always has to be put in the goal perspective. But to get an idea of your health and “general fitness” then a good place to start is at your general practitioner’s office. Go get a physical done and even some blood work. Determine if anything is in need of attention. If not, find an interest on YouTube or Fit Tip Daily and then determine a goal. Go find an expert in the subject and learn, then do. If you want “general fitness”, look at body fat, strength, endurance, and athletic standards and work towards meeting them. You are unique and the path you will take is uniquely yours. Find your starting point so you can efficiently develop a plan.
With any assessment it should be goal specific, but it is always a good idea to head to your general practitioner’s office. Here are some assessments for different goals to get you started:
General Fitness: 100 Burpee Challenge
This is a great benchmark assessment of general fitness because burpees are straight forward. Start a watch and start doing burpees. When you are done, stop the watch. It can be done anywhere and at any fitness level. Even if you are just getting started, the burpee can be modified to simply slowing the movement down. Anywhere around 6 minutes is exceptional. Use this assessment to assess your training program to see if it is working and transferring to your general fitness.
If you complete 100 burpees in:
12+ minutes: You’re an athlete in training! Way to work hard, and don’t stop pushing.
10-12 minutes: You’re an athlete! Awesome job getting past those mental blocks.
8-10 minutes: You’re a super athlete! You’re strong and in great conditioning shape.
6-8 minutes: You’re a total badass! You have some serious burpee skills.
4-6 minutes: You’re the ultimate badass! Be very, very proud.
Remember, these are loose guidelines—ultimately all that matters is that you work as hard as you can, so don’t worry too much about other people’s times (source).
Strength: The Big Three
The big three lifts in powerlifting are deadlift, squat, and bench press. If your goals involve strength using the deadlift, squat, and a press is the easiest way to assess your progress. The standard for strength in the deadlift is to be able to lift 2x your bodyweight. The squat is 1.5x and the press is being able to press your bodyweight. The overhead press is a much tougher assessment of strength than the bench press. Being able to hit all three standards represents that your program is working, dedicated, well-balanced and extremely strong ready to take on any exercise.
Running: 400 meters and Mile
These two distances represent sprinting and long distance. Being able to complete both to their standards show that you are well-rounded and fit. Just completing these two events to the best of your ability is a feat in itself. For the 400 meter sprint, if you can run it in a minute shows that you can accelerate and maintain a high speed. The mile standard is 5 minutes which shows just sustainability, resilience against lactic acid build-up, and a developed cardiovascular system.
These three assessments are just a small fraction of all the tests, challenges, and assessments that can be done to check your progress towards your goals. Always keep in mind that you are competing against yourself and better is better. You might not get to the standard and that is okay, just remember to always have a goal and compare yourself to what you use to be. Better is better.