Starting a running program might be one of the best things you can do for your fitness and health.
But, where do you begin?
You can kick things off by walking or doing a type of run/walking training. Or, if you’re already fit, you can lace up your trainers, and go for a run around the block,
See, you’ve got many options.
But, the wise thing to do is to make sure you’re a good fit for the high impact demands of running — especially if you are out of shape, overweight, or haven’t exercised in a long time.
Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself for a painful setback. And you don’t want that.
The Two Options
Before you take your first few steps on the running path, you have FIRST to get clear on how healthy and fit you are.
You have two options here:
Option I: You can see your doctor for a full fitness and health assessment. Some individuals should check with their physicians before doing any type of training program, especially a high impact activity, like running.
Option II: Go through the health and fitness profile assessment below.
The Importance of Assessment
Completing a health and fitness assessment before starting a running routine is crucial for many reasons.
Understanding how healthy and fit you can help ensure that your running program is suitable for you. It’s also an excellent way to measure your improvement and growth over the many coming weeks, months, even years.
Not only that, a fitness and health profile will screen for known diseases and medical issues in your history and family members history, which can help uncover risks for potential dangers and problems.
The Main Things to Check for
Here are some of the main risks and precaution you might need to be aware of:
Evaluating your current heart condition and cardio preparedness is a vital safety check before you start intense training.
If you have a history of cardiovascular illness or are older than 40, take up running only after receiving full clearance from a professional physician or health practitioner.
If your musculoskeletal system cannot withstand the high impact forces of a running routine, then you’re risking injury. Consult with a licensed physical therapist or a professional physician before taking up running.
Also, if you are nursing an injury, then hold your horses and wait until it’s fully healed before starting exercise.
Serious ailments—whether temporary or chronic can postpone, irritate, or even disrupt your running program.
So, please talk to with a professional if you are seriously worried about a current ailment that might hinder your ability to run pain-free.
High blood pressure might cause undue damage to your heart and blood vessels, whereas a surplus of the bad form of cholesterol can obstruct blood flow to your heart.
Age has a huge impact on your body’s ability to perform physical exercise, and it should never be ignored. The younger you are, the greater the odds you’re in good shape.
It’s also a valuable tool for determining maximum heart rate. Check my article here for more.
Resting Heart Rate
Well trained (fit) hearts beat much more slowly and efficiently than “untrained” ones.
The best time to measure your heart rate is to do it first thing when you wake up in the morning. For the most accurate reading, take the recordings of three days then average them.
Weight and BMI
Obesity is a major obstacle to getting fit.
If you are overweight, your heart will have to work double hard to pump blood to a substantial amount of times, as well as to organs and muscle tissue.
Also, starting a running program while being overweight can lead to many post-run aches, pains, even injuries.
Sleep is your body’s built-in recovery and performance-enhancing mechanism. Without it, you are doomed.
Sleep deprivation can negatively affect recovery, hinder growth hormone secretion, and compromise your fitness resolve. Poor sleeping habits are also directly linked to bad diet, stress, and other nightmares.
Having the right support system (family members, friends, co-workers, training partners, etc.) has a significant impact on your running goals and the speed at which you can achieve them.
The Health Assessment
Here is a long list of some of the health assessement you need to answer before you proceed to the fitness tests.
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have diabetes?
- Is your total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio greater than 5 to 1?
- Do you have a history of high blood pressure?
- Do you have a history of cardiovascular problems?
- Do you have a family history of chronic diseases before the age of 50?
- Are you taking any heart-related prescription drugs?
- Do you have any chronic injury?
- Do you eat a lot of junk food?
- Do you have any joint, bone, or any other health issue that limits your mobility when performing physical activity?
- Have you had chest pain while performing physical activity?
- Are you (clinically) obese?
- Do you take any medication on a regular basis?
- Are you under a lot of stress?
- Have you had a recent surgery?
- Are you sleep deprived?
- Do you have a supporting family? Friends?
- Are you currently pregnant? Or have you given birth within last six months?
If your answer is yes to more than three to five of the above, then you need to reconsider SERIOUSLY starting a running program. You might end up doing more damage than good if you don’t heed this advice.
Consult your doctor for more options on how to safely proceed before you start becoming much more physically active. If running is not an option, then stick with low-impact, low-intensity exercise, such as walking or yoga, that are safe for you for the time being.
If your answers are mostly a no, your health status might be in check. You may not need medical clearance to start a running program. Proceed at your own pace.
The Fitness Assessment
The second part of the health and fitness assessment will help you test your current level of fitness, strength and overall conditioning.
Just keep in mind that, as a beginner runner, you might not need to take all of the below fitness tests as some of them may prove quite challenging. This is especially the case if you’re really out of shape and many pounds overweight.
Proceed with caution, and never do more than your body can handle at the time being.
Without further ado, here are the five fitness assessments you need to measure your fitness on different levels. These fitness tests will test just how far you have come and how well your fitness stacks up against the average guy (or gal).
1. Your Cardio Conditioning
Test Two: The two-mile run
The test: Start by warming up for ten minutes with jogging and dynamic exercises, then run a two-miler distance (the equivalent of eight laps on a 400-meter track).
Have your client run as fast as they can, then record their timing.
- 20 minutes or more: Slow
- 15 to 20 minutes: Ordinary
- 12 to 15 minute: Good
- 10 minutes or less: Excellent
2. Your Anaerobic Power
Test One: 200-meter sprint
The test: Start with a 10-minute warm-up, then perform a series of stride outs with increasing speed and intensity with each round.
Next, once you’re well warmed up, set a stopwatch, then sprint for 200 meters at an all-out effort and as fast as possible.
- More than 50 seconds: Slow
- 40 to 50 seconds: Ordinary
- 25 to 40 seconds: Good
- Less than 25 seconds: Excellent.
3. Your Upper Body Strength
Test: The push-ups
Perform as many push-ups as possible with good form—core engaged, back straight and legs extended throughout the test and lowering the body until the upper arms are parallel to the ground.
- 15 or fewer: Weak
- 15 to 30: Ordinary
- 30 to 45: Good
- 45 or more: Excellent
4. Your Lower Body Strength
Test: Bodyweight Squat
While keeping the feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, and knees tracking over the toes, perform as many air squats as possible in one minute.
Keep good form the entire time. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then pushing back through the heels to the starting position.
- 20 or fewer: Weak
- 21 to 35: Ordinary
- 36 to 50: Good
- 50 or more: Excellent
5. Body composition
The waist-to-hip ratio
Get a measuring tape and measure your waist and hip at the narrowest point—the distance around the widest part of the hips and butt.
Next, to get the score, divide the waist circumference by the hip circumference.
- 96 or higher: Poor
- 90 to 0.96: Ordinary
- 83 to 0.89: Good
- 82 or less: Excellent
- 86 or higher: Poor
- 80 to 0.86: Ordinary
- 73 to 0.79: Good
- 72 or less: Excellent