Guessing how much time on the treadmill will work off the second helping of pumpkin pie — or how many calories were in that chocolate Santa — it’s math that gives momentary relief. Until another day goes by without a minute to burn those calories.
Caught up in the holiday whirl, it’s easy to feel off-track and even out of control. How to stop the cycles and circles? Find out where you are.
In the doctor’s office, our physician uses assessments like blood pressure, heart rate and blood panels to monitor our health, determine possible causes of illness and decide if we need a different medication.
In the gym, assessments help us monitor our healthy choices, and identify and address the things that might get in our way. There are four aspects to knowing where you are: how you feel, what you need, how to get where you want to go, and your progress. You can gauge how you feel and your progress, but it’s hard to measure what you might need, or how to get to your goal (whether that’s feeling better, being ready for a race, or reaching a number on a scale). That’s where a personal trainer can help.
HOW DO I FEEL?
The more science discovers about health and performance, the more important this question seems to become. Feeling tired, stressed, or not-quite-over a cold are all proven to impact how your body responds to exercise demands.
Since all sources of stress (environmental, exercise, psychological) contribute to the total physical stress load on our bodies, a stressful day plus an intense workout can result in an overload of stress hormones. This can lead to fatigue, depression, insomnia, hypertension, anxiety, sore and stiff muscles and decreases in training performance — all things that a workout is supposed to be good for!
That’s why it’s essential to pay attention to how you feel before exercising, so that you can choose a low-intensity workout when your body is telling you that’s the right thing to do. Did you eat enough? Sleep enough? Have an unresolved debate with a coworker? If you’re working with a personal trainer, your self-assessment will help him or her adjust the session to make it work for you instead of against you.
WHAT DO I NEED?
While stretching will tell you if you’re stiff, it’s almost impossible to thoroughly assess your movement on your own. When a qualified trainer, partner or coach watches you move, he or she looks for specific indicators that tell them what you need. There are seven primary human movements – your gait (walking or running), squatting, lunging, pulling, pushing, pressing and twisting — and a partner with an eagle eye will observe you to pinpoint what you need to correct or improve movement, or recover from injury.
MOVEMENT ASSESSMENTS DETERMINE:
- Movement restrictions. For example, bending forward excessively during a squat may indicate the knees or ankles are not as mobile as the hips (even if they feel just fine). In a squat, the bending should be balanced between the hips, knees, and ankles.
- Movement skill and strength. Assessing fundamental movement patterns gives your trainer information about what kinds of movement you do well, and areas where you need to improve.
- Individual needs. We all have slightly differently shaped bodies, and underneath we have differences in our skeletons, too. This can impact our ability to get into “perfect form.” Trainers use movement assessments to help us find the form that is perfect for us.
HOW CAN I GET WHERE I WANT TO GO?
Have you ever started a new workout program, only to stop because of an injury or soreness that wouldn’t go away? By identifying disruptors first, a trainer’s assessment gives you the chance to remove obstacles before you run into them.
Take, for example, someone who wants to lose 25 pounds. Her trainer notices that she has great mobility in the ankles and knees, but is sore and tight in the hips and back from sitting at the computer all day. Instead of pushing her through calorie-blasting bootcamp workouts, her trainer starts by focusing on dynamic flexibility to prevent injuries, and includes whole-body movements to let the powerhouse lower body burn more calories.
AM I GETTING THERE?
It’s almost becoming cliché to say it, but “you can’t measure what you don’t track.” Self-tracking wearables and apps help us log our sleep and nutrition, encourage our healthy habits, and prompt us to re-evaluate our strategies if we don’t see the results we’re after.
In the gym, re-evaluating our workout program is just as important, and assessments help us do it accurately. Watching the numbers on the scale or measuring tape shrink can be hugely motivating, but in all honesty, the physical ability screens are just as fun. In fact, one of the best predictors of longevity is the “Sit-Rise Test” (SRT), which essentially measures strength and flexibility. Here’s how to try it.
- Stand on the floor with bare feet.
- Now sit down in a cross-legged position without using your hands, knees, or sides of your legs.
- Then stand up again without using hands, etc.
- When the test begins, you have 10 points. Each time you use a hand, etc. subtract one point. Read more about it (and see pictures!) here.