The Case for Benchmarks

Many of us will go to the doctor this year for our annual health exam to find out whether we are still in good shape, or whether we’ve lost some ground. And if so, how much?

As we age, the conversation steers more and more toward the changes our doctors recommend we make in order to get back on track. We leave the office with a list of behavioral changes or maybe a prescription if our numbers are out of normal range.

Our mindset is “How much ground have I lost this past year with my health? And how I am going to get back to where I was?”

BUT, what if we reframed the way we think about our health and instead of focusing on what we lost, we tracked how we have IMPROVED this year?

This is a depart from our western medicine approach which promotes returning us to wellness when we are sick instead of incentivizing us to be fit and prevent chronic sickness in the first place.

Maybe you are already doing this…. If you run 5Ks, half marathons or participate in another athletic event, the test of improvement would be to simply compare your race time this year (at the same site) with the previous year’s result. If your time improved, you’d have evidence your speed has improved within the last year.

However, I encourage you to go even broader than that. Even if you were able to compare race times, determining whether your speed increased is just one way, one parameter of how you have improved over the last twelve months. It is just one slice of a whole pie that describes how well your body functions.

To really know if you are getting fitter, you will need to test and retest on a broader scope. Consider these others: Have I gotten stronger this year? Am I more flexible? Did my balance improve, or my coordination? Can I go further (increased endurance)? Is taking my kids on vacation less exhausting this year than last? (although this could lead us down a rabbit hole of tracking patience, temper and voice volume!)

What if we are able to benchmark or test improvement in ALL of these different areas year over year so we could find out what our weaknesses are, where our strengths lie, and what we need to focus our training on this year.

In doing so, you’d obtain some good data on how your fitness has improved AND earn glowing reviews at the doctor’s office.

The training methodology of CrossFit has developed a very effective and broad way of testing your fitness level. One that is repeatable and covers these 10 parameters: cardiovascular endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility, power, speed, accuracy, agility, coordination and balance. Greg Glassman and his early adopter athletes developed about 20 different benchmark workouts that test the above areas, but you can test your progress with just these two workouts:

1) “Helen”
3 Rounds for Time
400m run
21 Kettlebell Swings (35# for women)
12 Pull Ups

2) “Annie”
50 Double under jump ropes (start with single jumps)
50 Sit ups
40 Double unders, 40 sit ups
30 Double unders, 30 sit ups
20 double unders, 20 sit ups
10 double unders, 10 sit ups

I invite you to try them this month and get out of your comfort zone. If a pull up isn’t an option for you, try a jumping pull up option or the gravitron at your gym. If you haven’t had a jump rope in your hand since you were in elementary school, borrow one or purchase one. This one piece of equipment will greatly enhance your coordination, accuracy, agility and speed.

If these parameters are something you don’t work on, then, great! Let this be the start of broadening your training.

Check out my demo video below. I recommend you practice the movements and START AT YOUR LEVEL.  Record your effort for the first go around. Then, as you train to get stronger, faster and more agile, work on the tougher movements like the pull ups and double unders. It took me months to be able to do each of them (longer for the pull up).

This week try something different, and next year, know how you’re getting fitter.

Keep Moving!


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