Sure you get your cardio and weights in, but are you really in shape?
Everybody has their own definition of what it means to be in shape. In elementary school the government had a program that measured fitness level by how many pull-ups and push-ups you could do, and how fast you could run a mile. If you could do the prescribed amount, you were considered fit or in shape.
(If you didn’t pass the test, don’t worry. I didn’t either. I was the overweight kid who couldn’t do one pull-up.)
Now that you’re older, you probably have your own definition of ‘in shape.’ For some, being able to walk up the stairs without having to bend over and catch your breath is being in shape. For others, the complete absence of visible fat means you’re in shape.
I have a more methodical approach to determine if my clients are in shape. It goes like this:
I’m not talking about being able to touch your toes—what I look for is flexibility that doesn’t limit range of motion. This level of flexibility is sometimes referred to as functional flexibility. For example, if you are doing a lunge, do you have the flexibility in your hip flexor to complete the movement without leaning forward?
Here are some active stretches to improve your functional flexibility.
Each joint plays a role in keeping you balanced. The muscles that support the joints need to be strong all around the joint. If one side is stronger than the other, or if all the muscles around the joint aren’t strong enough, it creates an imbalance.
A strong core is vital to being balanced. Your core coordinates the movements of your upper body with your lower body. The stronger your core is, the greater your ability to resist forces that would push you off balance. Core strength is essential to decreasing the effects of aging.
Here is a basic core routine to help you strengthen your core.
When I look at strength I’m not looking at how much weight someone can curl. Strength is the ability to complete basic movement patterns without having to compensate, then being able to add resistance. Going back to the lunge example, I look to see if the individual can perform the movement with perfect form. Do they keep 70% of their weight on their front leg? Do they push up instead of laterally as they stand up? If the answers are yes, the individual is strong enough, flexible enough and balanced enough to do the exercise.
How to perform a lunge correctly.
I bet you’re thinking that I make my client run a mile to test this. Actually, I prefer to see how they preform on metabolic circuit challenges. Burpee/Dumbell Swing Pyramids are a good way to test how they perform after 30 seconds, 60 seconds and 5 minutes of intense exercise. Metabolic circuits are my preferred form of cardio for my clients, so I want to see how well they perform doing them.
Here is a basic metabolic workout.
#5 Body Composition
Body fat is my key body composition test. Measurement of the waist and hips also tells me a lot. Weight is probably the least important but we do track it. Keeping body fat in a healthy range and decreasing body fat around the waist are going to make a big difference in your long-term health. And being in shape for a lot of people means getting rid of that extra weight around the midsection.
So, are you in shape? If you want to prove you are, do a Burpee/DB Swing Pyramid and post your time. Start at ten and do ten of both. Then do nine of each all the way to one.
If the pyramid doesn’t appeal to you, leave us a comment about what being in shape means to you!
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