How much can you improve your fitness in 6 months?

My 2013 six-month fitness check-in. With many fitness goals, I am using the bodyweight baseline workout to assess where I am at.  I did not review my previous performance before heading off to the gym – I had no idea what I was trying to beat and I did not want to psyche myself out. I just wanted to do it. I put my game face on and I went.

It is done.

It was relatively brutal.

I did not go into the workout with confidence. Honestly, I had forgotten about my assessment workout, until I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized it was July. My workouts have been on the back burner lately – lacking focus, intent, and energy. This made me nervous, but I knew that I needed to complete the assessment and know the results – the good and the bad.

The results

Exercise

Jan. 2

Apr. 1

Jun 2

Percent Improvement

Pushups

55

63

68

23.64%

Squats

206

219

233

13.11%

Pullups

11

18

20

81.82%

Burpees

25

39

36

44.00%

Traveling Lunges

98

112

122

24.49%

BB Inverted Row

42

44

59

40.48%

SB Plank

:35 sec

:55 sec

1:10

100.00%

KB Swings (20kg)

81

90

98

20.99%

Following this workout, I completed my 1-mile run in 8:53 minutes, improving from 9:18 in April (and having not completed the mile in January).

Lastly, I weighed myself for the first time in a very long time – I am up 4 pounds from April and back to the same weight I started at January 1 – still within my body’s happy range. (And unfortunately I have not had a trustworthy body fat analysis to determine any changes in body composition.)

The response

I am surprised with my improvements. I am not surprised with my decrease in burpees since April, as I have been experiencing more back pain these last few weeks (no more Insanity experiments). 

The 3 minutes of pullups were frustrating, as I was only able to perform one at a time. All I could think about was my goal to perform 10 consecutive and the fact that I have not been training for it as diligently as I should be and that is why it was so hard. Mind games!

All in all, I am pleased. 

The bottomline

I did better than I thought I would. A lesson to be kind to myself.

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How to measure fitness improvement

April 1. No pranks for me, I meant business! It was assessment day – meaning I had to repeat my baseline workout to see how I have improved since January. The bodyweight workout is designed to be indicative of overall fitness. Having regressed in 2012, I am determined to reclaim my fitness in 2013. Weight goals and measurements are not effective for me – in previous years obsessed with weight goals and always making them lower. I needed to focus on achievement this year!

My assessment measure physical achievement on basic bodyweight exercises. I was disappointed with my performance in January. I was most disappointed with my pullups and burpees – having allowed my fitness level to decrease significantly in the previous 9-12 months. However, I did not focus on these assessment results the last 3 months – and I built my initial training around my 2013 goals.

  1. Headstands & Handstands photo (26)
  2. Heavybag Crunches
  3. 10 STRICT pullups
  4. Replacement behaviors for emotional eating
  5. Bench Press bodyweight
  6. Squat 300 lb.
  7. Planche (last minute add on)

Mind Games

I was anxious the night before my assessment, in anticipation of my performance. While I have been training without fail and have seen weekly gains, I was presuming failure. I was experiencing a fear of failure. I did not want to have the same ‘scores’ – nor worse. However, there was absolutely no reason to suspect I would not display improvement.

Excuses

Sunday was a race pace 10K – and I admit my legs were a bit fatigued. The insane winds that I ran through exhausted my lungs more than usual as well. The night before my assessment, I was already making excuses – if I underperform it will because of my run today and I will know to rest the day prior to an assessment next time! 

I had expectations of my performance – and I honestly do not even know what my expectations were. In my mind, I simply needed to improve. And I was preparing excuses in case I failed! I reached out to a friend who help me calm my mind and refocus into a positive mindset.

Results

Well, I improved. And I performed well – improving on all exercises, even if just a little. I did not know what to expect and I am mildly surprised by some of the results. I have highlighted the greatest improvements:

Exercise Jan. 2, 2013 April 1, 2013 Percent Improvement
Pushups 55 63 14.5%
Squats 206 219 6%
Pullups 11 18 64%
Burpees 25 39 56%
Traveling Lunges 98 112 14%
BB Inverted Row 42 44 5%
SB Plank :35 sec :55 sec 57%
KB Swings (20kg) 81 90 11%

I finished with a 1-mile run at a 1.0 incline = 9 minutes 18 seconds (in January I could not complete a mile run after the workout).

The take home

The highlights.

  1. The minimal improvements on squats and lunges could be the result of Sunday’s training run. While I would have liked to see more improvement with squats, it is unrealistic to expect significant improvements in muscular endurance when I am working on my absolute strength for my 2013 goal.
  2. It is evident that my cardiovascular endurance has improved tremendously in 3 months – burpees and 1-mile run. My pullup training is demonstrating effective as well, with a 64% improvements!

Alterations needed?

  1. I need to closely assess my inverted row – which was more an issue of grip strength during the assessment. July 1, when I repeat the assessment, I will use straps for the inverted rows and hope to attain a score more representative of my back strength and improvements. I also reviewed my workouts for the last 3 months and with my heavy emphasis on pullup training, I have  sparingly performed these horizontal pulls – and this will change in the coming months!
  2. I will rest completely June 30th, in an effort to see greater improvements in squats and lunges.

The bottomline

I had let my fitness level slip – and with it my self-esteem. It was important to me to get back on track. I did this by setting specific goals. I also completed this assessment, allowing me to see my starting point and track my progress. And now I feel good about my success and I am motivated to work more!

Do you have specific health and fitness goals for 2013?

How do you measure success? Improvement? I am on a journey to be in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday – in just over a month. While the ‘best shape of my life’ is still somewhat ambiguous, I have quantified it into this assessment and my personal goals for 2013.

Are you tracking your journey?

Notes: I chose not to complete body circumferences and body fat percentage for a few reasons – but mostly because I become obsessed with them. I do weigh myself and take progress pictures in addition to these assessments in an effort to monitor progress. I am down 4 pounds from January 2.

Where is the START on your game board?

It’s a new year. Many people set resolutions. More have goals for the upcoming year. Much like a board game, it is important to know where you are starting. Similarly, your GPS cannot give you directions to your destination without first determining your current location. Are you clear on what you need to do in order to achieve your goals if you do not know where you are starting?

I’ve been collecting my baseline ‘data’ for the year. I completed a bodyweight workout that I will repeat in 3, 6, 9, and 12 months to see where I improve or remain stagnant. This will help me to appropriately train. I have chosen the following workout because it is representative of daily living activities (and fall within functional training). And since I am training for life…what better way to measure my success? I will be collecting other data throughout this week to work towards some of my specific physical goals, but this is truly most indicative of my overall fitness.

I performed each exercise for 3 minutes, resting 2 minutes between exercises. The exception = 5 minutes for squats. I began with a 5 minute warmup with the jump rope. I chose the jump rope because it is least likely to exacerbate my psoas cramps or any of my other ailments that might interfere with completion of exercises. If you chose to do a similar assessment, warm up in a way that is suitable for you – bike, treadmill, elliptical, calisthenics, etc.

Pushups 55
Squats 206
Pullups 11
Burpees 25
Traveling Lunges 98 (49 each)
Barbell Inverted Row 42
Prone Plank Held for first :35
Dumbbell Swings 81

kettle_bells

Immediately after this bodyweight workout, I attempted a 1-mile run. 1/4 mile into this my psoas began to cramp and nausea hit so I took it to a walk and stretch. I hope that in 3 months I will be able to complete the run. NOTE: I used a dumbbell for swings because I did not have access to a kettlebell. A kettlebell would be much easier on the hands/grip for anyone looking to complete this assessment.

Honestly, I am not pleased with these numbers. I will being digging through my files to find some of my old data and see how it compares. The most ‘disappointing’ are the pullups and burpees. But instead of dwelling on the disappointment, I will view this as room for growth and improvement!

It does feel like I’m starting over – physically. The truth is, I am starting over in many ways, so it is fitting that I few everything with a fresh eye. New beginnings. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

In what ways do you feel like you are starting over? And in what areas of life do you need to know where you are starting?

How fit am I? GOAL 5

Most fitness assessments measure physical strength through a pushup test. “The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness.” A pushup requires the whole body, engaging muscles in the arms, chest, torso, hips, and legs. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit. Experts estimate that a pushup requires you to press 70% of your body weight. Jack Lalanne could do a crazy amount of pushups. My fifth goal is a two part goal – because I want to improve my overall fitness and my absolute chest strength.

A pushup and a chest press and a pushup are essentially the same movement. When training clients, those who are too weak for pushups begin with chest presses. Those who breeze through pushups are challenged with heavy chest presses.

GOAL 5a – Increase number of pushups I can complete without rest by 25%

GOAL 5b – Bench Press (barbell;flat) my bodyweight for 3 sets of 6-8

I may need to adjust these numbers slightly after I obtain my baseline data on January 1. It will be important to be realistic with my timelines as a continue to define my goals (See #2).