9 Ways to Measure Your Fitness

23 05 2011

By Jenny Everett
Runner’s World


A strong core—the muscles in your abdominals, back, and glutes—gives you stability, power, and endurance. “If your core muscles can’t support your pelvis, it will drop, which causes your hips, knees, and ankles to lose proper alignment,” says Michael Fredericson, M.D., a professor of sports medicine at Stanford University. “When this happens, you can’t absorb forces appropriately, and your muscles fatigue quickly.”


The Sprinter

Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, legs straight, and heels hovering six inches off the floor. Start sitting up while elevating your left arm with the elbow bent so it resembles a sprinter’s pumping motion. At the peak of the sit-up, bring your right knee toward your chest. Return to the starting position, keeping your legs raised, and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. That’s one rep. Do up to 20.



Get in plank position on your elbows. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Once in position, time how long you can maintain it with perfect form (don’t let your hips hike up).



You can hold the position for two minutes without breaking perfect form.


You can hold the position for 90 seconds without breaking perfect form.


You can hold this position for less than 90 seconds.


A strong upper body makes it easier for a runner to hold good form, which can improve running economy—how efficiently you use oxygen while running. “The more economical you are, the less oxygen you will use, and the longer you can sustain a given pace,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist in New Canaan, Connecticut.



Complete as many standard push-ups as possible, maintaining good form (don’t let your back sag).


Push-Up and Ball-Crunch Combo

Get in push-up position with your shins on a stability ball. Complete a push-up, then pull the ball toward your chest. Return to start. Do two or three sets of 10 to 25 reps, resting 30 seconds between sets.


Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+

Great >23 >22 >18 >15

>30 >25 >21 >18

Good 12-22 10-21 8-17 7-14

17-29 13-24 11-20 9-17

Fair 0-11 0-9 0-7 0-6

0-16 0-12 0-10 0-8


The repetitive motion of running, in which you’re using the same muscles in the same way over and over again, can strengthen some muscles more than others. “An imbalance between opposing muscle groups, such as your quadriceps and hamstrings, can lead to muscle pulls and knee pain,” Holland says. “Strength training can balance out the lower body and prevent those types of injuries.”


Walking Lunges

Holding dumbbells, step forward with your right leg and lower into a lunge. Return to standing as you step forward with your left leg and repeat. Continue “walking” for eight to 10 steps. Do three sets, resting 60 seconds in between.


Squat Test

Squat down until your glutes graze the seat of a chair. Return to standing. Repeat as many times as possible, maintaining perfect form (knees behind toes).


Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+

Great >43 >39 >33 >27

>49 >45 >41 >35

Good 25-42 21-38 15-32 10-26

31-48 29-44 23-40 18-34

Fair 0-24 0-20 0-14 0-9

0-30 0-28 0-22 0-17


A flexible body is worth striving for—it’s more efficient, sees more gains in strength and endurance, enjoys more range of motion, and recovers more quickly. When your muscles are long and pliable, blood flows more freely. This means your muscles, ligaments, and tendons are better nourished and able to rebound faster after you run, says Cathy Morse, a yoga instructor and marathoner in Charleston, South Carolina.


Runner’s Stretch

Stand with your glutes against a wall and your feet six to 12 inches from the wall’s base. Bend forward and place your palms on the floor or a yoga block or footstool (shown above). To make it harder: Move your feet closer to the wall. Do this stretch postrun. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Do three reps.

Strong roots: Run pain-free with these lower leg stretches.


Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose

Bend your left knee, and draw your thigh in. Loop a strap or belt around the arch of your left foot, and hold an end of the strap in each hand. Straighten the leg as much as possible while pressing your heel toward the ceiling (shown at right). Walk your hands up the strap until elbows are straight. Gently bring your leg as close to your head as possible. Note the angle of the leg in respect to your grounded leg.



Greater than 90 degrees with leg straight

Greater than 45 degrees with leg straight


Greater than 90 degrees with leg slightly bent

Greater than 45 degrees with leg slightly bent


90 degrees or less

Less than 45 degrees


Running is an intricate one-foot balancing act. To stay steady on your feet, nerve endings in your joints and muscles (called proprioceptors) sense changes in your body position. Improving your balance can enhance the ability of these proprioceptors to anticipate movement changes so your runs are smoother and faster. Besides, studies show that balance naturally declines with age if you don’t actively work on it.


One-Legged Squat

Place a stability ball between your lower back and a wall. Lift your right foot off the ground and lower down into a squat. Push back to start—but don’t lower your right foot. That’s one rep. Continue for eight to 10 reps, and then repeat on the other leg.

Keep your stride: Maintain your footing with these top running shoes for 2010.


Standing Stork

Place your right foot against your left leg. Start timing. Stop timing when your left foot moves or you lose your balance. Repeat on the other side. Average the times.



Great >50

Good 26-49

Fair 25 or less


Most runners realize their muscular flexibility could use some work, but they don’t think about the range of motion of their joints. Joint mobility is a measure of how effectively you are able to move your ankles, knees, and hips through a normal range of motion. When these joints are tight, your body recruits other muscles, which then become overworked and vulnerable to injury, says Craig Rasmussen, C.S.C.S., a fitness coach in Newhall, California



Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Grab your toes, bending your knees if you need to. Keeping arms straight, pull your glutes down and lift your chest while holding your toes. Reach up one arm, then the other, to form a “Y.” Stand up, keeping arms raised. Repeat 10 times.



If with feet flat on the floor, your torso is parallel to your lower leg throughout the test, your thighs are below parallel to the floor, and you’re able to keep your knees aligned with your feet without knees caving inward.


If you can meet the above parameters, but only with heels elevated on the board.


If you have trouble maintaining form in either heel position.


Whether they’re interested in running a personal record or simply finishing their morning five-miler in less time, most runners are interested in getting faster. What you may not realize, though, is that speed training can help prevent injury because it demands that muscles fire hard for a split second. This requires more power than slogging out miles, and therefore builds more muscle that can protect you from the wear and tear of distance running, says Martin Rooney, C.S.C.S., chief operating officer of the Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.


Speed Drills

“There are two ways to get faster: Increase stride frequency and length,” Rooney says. This first drill trains your brain and your muscles to communicate superfast—so your muscles fire quickly to improve stride frequency. The second works the hamstrings and glutes, the two muscle groups that control stride length.

1. Quick Steps Drill

Take as many short steps as possible—as quickly as possible—for five yards. Walk five yards, then repeat. Do three sets of five reps. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

2. Straight Leg Bound

Run 30 yards, taking as big of a stride as possible while keeping legs straight (shown at left). Rest 60 seconds. Repeat up to five times.


Lap Test

Go to a track and warm up with an easy 10-minute run. Then, using your watch to time yourself, run one lap (which is 400 meters or a quarter-mile) as quickly as possible. If a track isn’t accessible, run a quarter-mile on a measured stretch of flat road.


Female Male

Great -60 seconds -55 seconds

Good 60-70 seconds 55-65 seconds

Fair >71 seconds >66 seconds

Battle of the sexes: Learn more about women’s training needs here.


Endurance can be thought of as how well all of your systems work together: Your heart-stroke volume (the amount of oxygenated blood pumped to the muscles with every beat), your muscle strength and efficiency (the muscles’ ability to turn that O2 into energy they need to contract), your metabolism (how efficiently you metabolize fat and carbohydrates to use for fuel and flush out lactate build-up, believed to be a cause of muscle fatigue), and your neuromuscular system (your brain and body’s ability to communicate about which muscles to contract and when). Sure, you work on your endurance every time you head out for a run. But the only way to track your progress is to have a controlled test that gauges how well these systems work together. Peter Park, C.S.C.S., Lance Armstrong’s personal trainer and fitness expert for livestrong.com, developed this tempo-run test that measures your endurance in 45 minutes.


Treadmill Tempo

1. Set a one-percent incline. Warm up at an easy pace for 10 minutes.

2. Do a 30-minute tempo run at 85 percent of your maximum effort. This is a bit slower than your 10-K race pace—an 8 on a scale of diffculty from 1 to 10.

3. Cool down for five minutes, and note the distance you covered during that 30-minute tempo run. (It might be easier for you to gauge that distance if you reset the treadmill after your warmup.)

Age 35 AND UNDER 35-50 50+

Great >4.6 miles >4.2 miles >3.8 miles

>5.2 miles >4.8 miles >4 miles

Good 4-4.5 miles 3.8-4.1 miles 3.3-3.7 miles

4.2-5.1 miles 3.9-4.7 miles 3.5-3.9 miles

Fair -3.9 miles -3.7 miles -3.2 miles

-4.1 miles -3.8 miles -3.4 miles


Endurance Builders

Pick two of these three workouts, and do them on nonconsecutive days each week.

1. Run a lap of a track at 5-K race pace with 30 seconds of recovery between reps. If you scored Fair, do eight laps; if you’re Good, do 10; if you’re Great, do 12.

2. Do mile repeats 20 seconds faster than your 5-K race pace. Rest one minute between reps. If you’re Fair, do three; Good, do five; Great, do eight.

3. If you’re Fair, do a 12-minute tempo run at 85 percent effort. If you’re Good, do two; if you’re Great, do three.

Last longer: Make sure you get the best rest during training.


If your workouts are always at the same, comfortable pace, your cardiovascular system probably isn’t as fit as it could be. “You need to move out of your comfort zone and force your heart to work harder and act more quickly in order to improve your cardiovascular fitness,” says Tim Church, Ph.D., a professor at Louisiana State University. Your heart is like any other muscle. When it’s challenged, it grows stronger. And when it’s stronger, it can pump more blood with each beat, delivering more oxygenrich blood to your muscles so they can perform their best.



The best, most accurate way to measure cardiovascular strength is to find a gym that tests VO2 max. But a simple step test can give you a general idea of where your blood-pumping engine stands. Using a 12-inch-high step (or the second stair of a flight in your house), step on and off for three minutes. Step up with one foot and then the other. Step down the same way. Try to maintain a steady, consistent four-beat cycle, “up, up, down, down.” Aim for about 24 steps per minute. After three minutes, sit down and immediately check your heart rate—place your fingertips on the side of your throat and count the beats for one minute.


Age 18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 66+

Great -93 -94 -96 -101 -103 -105

-84 -86 -90 -93 -96 -102

Good 94-110 95-111 97-119 102-124 104-126 106-130

85-100 87-103 91-106 94-112 97-115 103-118

Fair >111 >112 >120 >125 >127 >131 >101 >104 >107 >113 >116 >119


Hill Repeats

Hill training forces muscles to recruit two to three times more muscle fibers than flat-land running, which makes it a great way to improve your cardiovascular strength, Park says. Do it once a week. Find a hill that’s two to three blocks long and that has a gradual incline—not too steep. After a 10-minute warmup, run up the hill at 80 to 85 percent effort, trying to maintain a consistent pace. This should feel slightly slower than your 10-K pace. When you reach the top, run slowly back down (recover for about one minute). If you’re Fair, do six hills; if you’re Good, do eight; if you’re Great, do 10.




One response

23 05 2011
Damsel beauty loundge » Leopard Trek

[…] 9 Ways to Measure Your Fitness « Running Orgasm […]

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