Body Positive Fitness Assessments: Tracking fitness without stepping on a scale

Fitness Assessments are Important Information

Tracking your progress as you participate in any type of exercise program can be very exciting and motivating. If you are working with a trainer or coach, they can use this information to design a program that will benefit your individual needs and goals. If you are working out on your own, you can follow along with the exercises I’m going to suggest. I am not including any type of body composition assessment or tracking information, I do not believe that it belongs as part of an enjoyable fitness program. You know what your body looks and feels like, it’s more than a number on a scale or piece of paper. Instead I’m offering ways for you to observe your capacity for movement and gain information so you can continue doing exercise that feels great.

If you want to do these at home, have someone assist or set up a way to video tape so you can evaluate once you are done. Better yet, schedule a session with me, I can take you through the assessments and discuss the results with you.

Note: I’m going to be suggesting some general exercises that are used widely in the industry for evaluating fitness levels of adults under the age of 65 who are not at risk for severe health conditions. If you are under the care of a medical professional, please consult them before making changes to your fitness program or starting a new program.

Getting Started

Decide on the what and the why of your fitness program.

  • What are your goals?

  • Why are you pursuing them?

If you don’t have a baseline, or a plan, it is going to be really hard to know when you are making progress. Once you know you’re what and why, you can choose the best way to establish your baseline and create your program. Be as specific as possible, this will help you and your trainer (if you are working with one).

Make sure you warm up! A brisk walk or movement will get the blood flowing and your muscles ready to work.


Learn how to calculate your heart rate

Your heart rate at rest is a measure of heart health and fitness. For most adults, a healthy resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats a minute.

To check your pulse in your neck, place your index and middle fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon located on the palm side of your wrist below the thumb.

When you feel your pulse, look at your watch and count the number of beats in 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 to get your heart rate per minute. Let's say you count 15 beats in 10 seconds. Multiply 15 by 6 for a total of 90 beats a minute.

Measure Your Workout Intensity - Target Heart Rate and RPE

The target heart rate zone is an increase in your heart rate — 50 to 75 % of the maximum heart rate for your age — great enough to give your heart and lungs a good workout. You don’t want your workout to be too difficult and if it’s too easy you may not see the improvement you want.

Factors such as illness, hydration, medications, and genetics can play a role in establishing your individual target heart rate. The American Heart Association has a good overview of how to figure out yours.

If you already exercise regularly, you can stop to check your heart rate periodically during an aerobic workout. If you do not exercise regularly, you can do a simple test by checking your heart rate after a brisk 10-minute walk.

I’m a fan of using RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) for monitoring what training zone I’m in or want to be in.

If you are working out and it becomes to difficult to talk, don’t spend a lot of time at that exertion level. Being in the moderate to vigorous activity zones is sufficient for your cardiovascular health.

To measure your cardiovascular health, go for a brisk walk or easy jog for about 1.5 miles, track your heart rate and RPE along the way.

Muscular Strength & Muscular Endurance

From a training and physical fitness perspective, muscular strength is defined as the maximum force your muscles can develop in a single contraction. You want to know the heaviest weight you can lift once.

Muscular endurance is measuring how long the muscle group can work before it stops due to exhaustion.

Why are these important to for your fitness? Both play a role in the health of blood circulation, bone density, and injury prevention.

Exercises that test strength and endurance


Modified Push Up - These require no extra equipment and are a great way to measure upper body strength. Do not do these if you have wrist or shoulder injuries/pain! Scroll down for the plank test.

·       Place a mat on the floor. Get on your hands and knees.

·       Move your hands forward until your body is positioned diagonally relative to the floor. Crisscross your calves and raise your feet up until they are suspended in the air.

·       With your back straight, slowly lower your upper body to the ground until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle.

·       Then slowly push back up to the starting position. Your arms should be straight with a slight bend at the elbow. This is one push up.

·       You can place a towel or pillow under your knees to cushion them.


Elbow Plank - This is fabulous for understanding your core muscle strength and can also be used as a fitness exercise for improving core strength.

·       Place a mat on the floor and lie stomach-down on it.

·       Place your forearms on the floor, shoulder width apart, and

·       Raise yourself up on your toes (or knees as shown in the photo). In this position, your elbows should be under and aligned with your shoulders.

·       Tuck the belly button up toward your spine and keep a long line from the back of your head to your tail bone.

·       Hold this position for as long as possible, record the length of time.


Wall Sit - This gives you an idea of your lower body muscular strength and endurance. purpose: to measure the strength endurance of the lower body, particularly the quadriceps muscle group. equipment required: smooth wall and a stopwatch.

However, if you are at home, your pets might decide this is a great time to “help”.

  1. Stand against a smooth wall feet hip distance apart, toes facing ahead of you

  2. Press your head, shoulders, back and tailbone toward the wall

  3. Slowly slide your hips down

  4. Step your feet out away from the wall

  5. Bring hips down to level of knees if possible.

  6. Hips, knees and toes should all be tracking in the same direction.

  7. Hold position, breathe into the sides and back of your rib cage.

  8. Record how long you hold this position


Flexibility and Mobility

One limiting factor with progressing with an exercise program might be your flexibility and range of motion. I’m going to share that these terms are not the same thing.

To put it in simple terms - Flexibility is the amount of stretch capacity of your soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, & tendons). Mobility is the capacity for movement of your various body parts, this includes the soft tissues and your joints. Imbalances in mobility and flexibility are where a majority of body injuries happen when we are active.

If you are curious about where you are with your flexibility and mobility I’m going to share a few areas of the body to test.

Ankles: There are a few ways to test your ankle mobility.

  • Squat Test - bringing your hips down toward or below your knees. Use a chair for support if desired. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, and your chest open to the front of the room. Sink down low until the backs of your thighs are resting on the top of your calves. If this is comfortable, you have lots of ankle flexibility. If it’s not, this is information for you.

  • Wall Test - Start with your toes touch the wall, and then ever-so-gently lean your knee in until it touches the wall. If this is easy moving your foot until it’s about 1/2 inch away from the wall and try to have your knee touch the wall again. If it does, you've got great mobility – if your heels rise up, then you've got work to do.

  •  Point and Flex your Foot - Do this exercise either sitting or lying on back with legs long (you may also point and flex with knee folded up). Point the toes away from your body. Bring the toes up toward your body.

Hips: Sit deep into squat, this time aiming to keep your back as straight as possible. If your back rounds over like a turtle shell, or your knees roll inwards to compensate, then it's highly likely that your hips are tight. It’s not uncommon for one hip to be tighter than the other.

Hamstrings and Lower Back: Take a seat on the floor, legs stretched straight in front of you. Reach forward toward your toes without bending your knees.

Upper Back: Sit comfortably on a chair with your rib cage over your hips and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms and place your hands to opposite shoulders. Twisting from your belly button rotate your upper body as if you were going to look behind you, see how far you can go comfortably.

Shoulders: The shoulder flexibility test is best performed without any bulky clothing and in a comfortable (rather than cold) room. This test shows the internal and external rotational abilities of the shoulder joint.

  • Scratch Test - While standing, reach one arm up. Bend your elbow to pat your back. Reach your fingers down your back as far as you can. Put your other hand behind your back and reach your fingers up your back as far as you can.  Try and touch your fingertips. Repeat, switching the position for each arm.

  • Shoulder Flexion - Lie on a table or the ground, bend your knees and place them flat on the floor. Tighten your core, pull your ribcage down and press your lower back into the table/ground. With your palm facing in and your elbow straight, raise your right arm overhead to try and touch your hand to the table/ground. If you can do this without your back arching, then you pass the test. Repeat on both sides.

I hope you found this information useful to give you some guidelines for ways you can track your progress in an exercise program. I’ve also included for you a downloadable and printable form that you can use at home to inspire your progress. Just click the photo and get started!

Tell me about your progress, I would love to hear all about it.

In Wiggles & Wellness,

Nancy TrunzoComment