So you have been running hard and regularly, but how fit & healthy are you really?
You can find the answer to this question after taking the tests I’m sharing with you below. But before you do that, let’s first discuss why you need to take them. After all, fitness means different things to different people.
The Well-rounded Runner
Sure, maybe you can run a 5K under 20 minutes, but that’s just one facet of fitness. Real fitness is about becoming fully rounded in all areas of fitness, whether it’s speed, endurance, agility, strength and flexibility.
You can be the best runner in town, but if you have upper body strength of a 7 years old and can’t touch your toes, then you are heading (and running) into the wrong direction, buddy.
My main purpose with my blog is not just to help you become a better runner, but be well rounded and develop your fitness on all levels.
Fitness Vs. Health
The terms “fitness” and “health” are typically used interchangeably these days, but, there are vital differences between them. Some people believe just because you have the fitness to run a 10K you must also be healthy.
But here is the thing folks, fitness, and health is not the same things. These two terms mean very different things, and are, in reality, separate states of physical being.
Plus, these two terms are most often used erroneously and get lost in the industry jargon.
On the flip side, bing healthy does not intrinsically mean that you’re fit. And we all know of people who never ran a mile or lifted weights in their lives, but seem disease-free and healthy.
Yes, as we will see, there are a few similarities between the two, but the differences are far greater.
Fitness refers to one’s ability to perform a particular physical movement, be it running, weight lifting, jumping, etc.
Fitness is defined by the level of agility, speed, strength, explosive power, mobility and cardiovascular conditioning and endurance, etc.
What’s more, being fit for one sport doesn’t mean you will be fit for another (of course, I still believe in the benefits of cross training).
The main way of increasing fitness is through physical activity. It involves some type of activity that stimulates different systems of the body and keeps a certain condition within the body.
Lifestyle choices, such as diet, are also vital. But it boils down to the amount and quality of physical activity that determines your fitness level.
For most people, fitness can be within the control of the individual. If you are not fit, then often-than-not. You’re responsible.
Fitness as it Relates To Health
Research shows that increasing one’s fitness can lead to a health boost in so many ways—lowered risks of cardiovascular ailments, reduced risks of cancer, stronger immunity, etc.
So, your fitness level does have an impact on your health status. But, all in all, it does not define it. Fitness can be considered a measure of the amount of physical aptitude than a measure of health and well-being.
What do I mean? Keep on reading.
Health, on the other hand, is the general term used to describe the overall well-being status of a person.
As a general rule, being healthy entails being free from diseases or illness and not suffering from any pain or injury.
But that’s not the whole story.
According to the World Health Organization, health is not merely the absence of illness or disease. The WHO defines it as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. I couldn’t agree more.
Health is measured by a certain number of different elements that conventional science has produced. These include insulin levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, oxygen intake, hormonal metrics, cardiovascular fitness, basic mobility, skin health, etc.
In other words, true health involves having a balanced approach to things.
Your health status can be affected by many factors, including genes, environments, food, disease, social structure, etc.
So, it might not always be under one’s control (but that’s no excuse to let your health deteriorate).
Some of the best ways to increase your health include physical activity (or fitness), balanced nutrition, stress management, reduction of environmental pollution, proper sleep, etc.
So, you can improve your fitness by getting healthier, and can get healthy by improving your fitness. The two are interlinked. But, as we have just seen, they differ from each other greatly.
And now you know the difference.
The Importance of Assessment
Completing a health and fitness assessment before starting a running routine is crucial for many reasons.
This is important for the following reasons:
Know thyself. The test evaluates your current medical history, looking for any issues that you might or might not be aware of. This can help you uncover risks for possible dangers and health complications.
Design a suitable program. The assessment can also help you design the most appropriate exercise program, making sure you won’t be putting your body at risk by doing too much than it can handle or performing an exercise you’re not supposed to be doing, yet.
Know your place. You can compare the results within peer groups to ass where you stand fitness and health-wise.
Have a starting point. The score on each test can provide with a measure for future reference, from which you’d start mapping out your progress as you pursue your running and fitness goals.
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.
Fitness Tests To Take
I’m laying out 12 assessments to help give you an accurate reflection of your fitness.
In short, fitness is a measure of your main physical abilities. Physical fitness can be broken down into five different elements:
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular endurance
- Muscular strength
- Flexibility or mobility
- Body composition
The following tests assess each facet of your fitness, helping you better understand your overall fitness level and how to devise a plan according to it.
Tests Are Good For Improving Performance
The score on each test can provide with a measure, a starting point, from you can start charting out your progress (or lack thereof) as you strive to become a well-rounded runner and athlete.
Speed and Anaerobic Power
Whether your main running goal is to qualify for the Boston marathon, or finish a 5K run in less than 30 minutes, speed is of vital importance.
After all, every runner wants to run faster
As a runner, testing your speed is no-brainer. Nonetheless, if you have never tested your speed, you can’t really know how fast you are.
Here is a test that can help.
1. 200-meter sprint
Test it: begin the test with a 5-minute warm-up, then perform a series of sprints increasing speed with each round. Once you are warmed enough, set a stopwatch and sprint 200 meters at all out effort.
More than 50 seconds: Poor
40 to 50 seconds: Average
25 to 40 seconds: Good
Less than 25 seconds: Excellent.
Endurance and Cardio Conditioning
Speed is just one piece of the puzzle. You will also need endurance if you want to improve your athletic performance and become the best runner you can be.
2. Two-Mile Run
Test it: Run a two miler—that’s about eight laps on 400-meter track— at the fastest pace you can do. Just don’t forget to start with a proper warm-up that includes jogging and dynamic movements before jumping into the test.
More than 20 minutes: Poor
15 to 20 minutes: Average
12 to 15 minute: Good
Less than 12 minutes: Excellent
Upper Body Strength
Running is not just about the legs, your upper body has a say as well. If you have a strong upper body, then you will be able to keep good form with ease—especially when fatigue starts to set in—and to develop running economy, which is all about how efficiently you use oxygen while hitting the pavement.
Take these 3 simple tests to see where you are at.
Test it: Do as many push-ups as you can crank out with proper form— back straight, and legs fully extended the entire time.
10 or fewer: Poor
15 to 30: Average
30 to 40: Good.
40 and more: Excellent. You are fit. Keep it up.
4. The Pull-up
Test it: Grab a pull-up bar using an underhand grip—palms facing the body—with arms fully extended. Next, do as many pull-ups as possible with good form—pulling your body up until your chin is above the top of the bar.
6 or fewer: Poor
6 to 12: average
12 to 20 : Good
20 and more: excellent. You are in a phenomenal shape.
5. Bench Press
Test it: Get into a bench press machine. Next, while keeping your feet on the ground and core engaged the entire time, bring the barbell down until it reaches the mid-chest, pause, then slowly raise it up to the starting position.
For the full score, divide the maximum one-rep bench press you can do by your bodyweight.
Less than 1.0: Poor
1.0 to 1.50 bodyweight: Good
1.5 or more: Excellent. You have phenomenal upper body strength.
Your core—the upper and lower abs, obliques, and glutes—are key for improving running performance and preventing injury. For more on core training benefits for runners, check this post.
Test your core power with these exercises
Test it: lay on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor, heels touching. Next, while keeping your elbows out and embracing your abs, do as many crunches as you can in one minute.
15 of fewer: Poor
15 to 30 : Average
30 to 50: Good
50 and more: Excellent
7. The Plank
Test it: Assume a plank position—forearms resting firmly on a mat, legs extended, and core activated. Next, hold the plank as long as you can with good form. Make sure to keep your body straight from head to ankles the entire time.
Less than one minute: Poor
One to two minutes: Average
Two to three minutes: Good
More than three minutes: Excellent. Keep it up.
Lower Body Strength and Endurance
Muscle imbalances in the lower body are one of the main causes of overuse injuries. Plus, you are really missing out if your running muscles—think calves, quads and hamstrings—are not strong enough to propel you forward.
Use the standard squat to test your lower body endurance and strength.
8. Bodyweight Squat
Test it: Assume a shoulder width stance, and do as many as squats as possible with good form—back straight and knees tracking behind the toes—for three minutes.
Less than 50: Poor
50 to 100: Average
100 to 200: Good
200 and more: Excellent.
Flexibility and mobility
Runners are notoriously known for tight hammies and calves, and this lack of flexibility can take a toll on your running and health. Study have linked tight lower body muscles to a myriad of overuse injuries such as Runners Knee, and ITB syndrome
As a result, assess how much flexibility you have by going through these 3 tests and find out where you fall short.
9. Thomas Test
The goal: Assess hip flexibility, precisely in the iliopsoas and quadriceps muscles.
You will need a partner for this one.
Lie on your back at the very edge of a bench and pull both knees using your arms to your chest.
Next, while keeping your lumbar spine flexed and flat on the bench, lower your right leg toward the bench and let it hang freely.
Have a partner measure where your right leg is hanging, then switch sides.
Your leg touches the bench: Good
The back of the leg is slightly off the surface: Average (your hip flexors are tight)
If your upper thigh won’t get parallel with the bench: Poor flexibility.
10. Sit and Reach
The goal: Assess hamstring and lower back flexibility
Sit on the floor with legs stretched out straight ahead. While keeping your knees locked and pressed to the floor, reach as far as you can without rounding your back toward or beyond your toes. Hold the position for at least three seconds and note how far down you can reach
You can easily reach and grab your toes: Good
You can grab your ankle or shins: Average
You can only grab your knees: Poor
11. Depth Squat
The goal: Assess mobility, flexibility and stability of the entire lower body, including the hips, hamstrings, knees, calves and ankles.
Stand with the feet shoulder width apart. Hold a pole in both hands and straighten your arms overhead as you drop into a deep squat while keeping your back flat, and knees tracking over your toes the entire time.
Ankles and heels remained in contact with the floor without any struggle: Good.
You struggle to keep your back flat and knees tracking over your toes but your heels are firmly on the ground: Average
You can’t come to the full squat without raising your heels off the ground: Poor
Total Body Strength and Conditioning Fitness
If you really want to test your fitness mettle, then I dare you to step into the box (a CrossFit gym), and start crossfitting on a regular basis. The whole philosophy behind CrossFit training is non-specificity and becoming good at every facets of fitness.
12. The Fran WOD
Here is a WOD (Workout Of the Day) to test your fitness level in the most well-rounded way possible.
Test it: One of my favorite Workouts Of the Day. This WOD includes 21 thrusters (95 pounds for men, 65 pounds for women) followed by 21 pull-ups, then 15 thrusters followed by 15-pull-ups. Then, finish it off with 9 thrusters followed by 9 pull-ups. Do these exercises as fast as you can with good form.
12 minutes and more: Poor
Eight to 12 minutes: average
Five to eight minutes: Good
Less than five minutes: Excellent.
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
New to Running? Start Here…
If you’re serious about running, getting fit, and staying injury free, then make sure to download my Runners Blueprint Guide!
Inside this guide, you’ll learn how to start running and lose weight weight the easy and painless way. This is, in fact, your ultimate manifesto to becoming a faster and a stronger runner. And you want that, don’t you?
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Here you have it!
The above fitness tests can shed light on how fit you are really. So take them as soon as you can and keep track of your progress. That’s how you will improve.
In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.
Feel free to leave your comments and questions below