The Holidays are coming, and with them, anxiety about our waistline: the parties, the drinking, the food, the snacking in front of the telly because it is too cold to go out.

And we're not even mentioning what sitting at your desk all day, working, does to your health and wellness!

Immediately following the holidays come the resolutions: to lose weight, to quit smoking and/or drinking, to become more active, to get back in shape, to take up a sport...

Mostly ideas that will lie forgotten in the attic of our minds, even as we are constantly reminded of our good intentions by our sense of guilt.

Still: having the idea-desire-intention to treat our body better is not a bad thing, especially as time works its magic and we slowly degenerate.

The desire to work out is the first step toward physical reconditioning and physiological (and mental!) well-being.

Driven by skinny model adverts, the coolest trend in fitness wear and the undeniable attraction of extreme sports – how did that young chap manage to leap with his bicycle, anyway?, our feeling winded after climbing a single set of stairs is the final incentive to start counting calories, roll out the mat and squirm into our...

See tips for counting your calorie intake here.

Hold your horses!

Are you seriously going to work out with no inkling of what your current physical condition is? Or, without knowing your body's limitations?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This idiom does not actually reflect western society's mindset: our method is to treat an ill after it occurs.

A practice diametrically opposed to eastern philosophy, we quietly inject.

Thus it comes to pass that those years accrue, not one of them caring one whit about our changing physiology.

That is a disdain we all seem to share, right up to the time we wriggle back into our workout clothes and lace up our trainers.

Let's find out exactly where you are on the fitness spectrum, before you head out to the gym or solicit the guidance of a home or online personal trainer.

Get information on online personal training here.

Knowing the state of your heart prior to starting an exercise regimen is critical
keep your heart in healthy shape to prevent cardiac incidents Source: Pixabay Credit: Artsy_Bee

The Dangers of Personal Training Without a Fitness Assessment

From the start of draft season, every football fan knows that any player up for contract renewal/consideration will have undergone a thorough physical exam and a health assessment.

Even people who are not football fans know that. It is common sense to ascertain a player's value to the team by determining his physical fitness.

Who doesn't remember Lilian Thuram's crushing blow, dealt to him by the elite football club, Paris St. Germain, upon discovery of a heart defect, found during a routine physical exam?

Thus it is in the spirit of prevention that a physical stress test should be done before engaging in any manner of sport.

Why Undergo a Stress Test?

It should be obvious, when talking about physical stress tests, that they are conducted in a safe environment, with a physician – maybe one with the knowledge of sports medicine, collecting and analysing all of your data.

(Potential) athletes over forty are especially urged to such an exam.

Nothing discriminatory about that: it is around that age that the human body starts its natural deterioration.

Metabolism slows down, cellular matter becomes weaker, and muscles lose their elasticity – all through no direct effort or act of will.

Especially for men over 40: you are subject to a greater chance of a cardiac incident, including outright failure, if you tax your heart.

The risk of heart failure is exacerbated if the person presents with:

  • hypertension
  • high cholesterol
  • a family history of heart disease

and the effects of these are magnified if the person is a smoker.

The very best way to reduce your risk of fatal heart disease and regain your health and form is to get fit.

Even if you are not aiming to become the next Aiden Crawley, Steven Craig or Lucy Shuker (cricket, football and tennis, respectively).

Discover how to calculate your body mass index

Proceed with a Fitness Assessment if...:

We have just discovered that men over forty are at greater risk of a heart episode and should undergo a heart stress test.

Now let's find out what symptoms could alert a doctor that more tests are needed.

  • Palpitations – if you feel your heart hammering in your chest, or beating irregularly; if you are having trouble breathing or catching your breath; if you have persistent, nagging chest or back pain
  • Genetic predisposition – if your family has a history of heart disease; if you yourself have high blood pressure, are middle-aged or older, and a smoker
  • if you are a highly developed athlete in the course of a test of endurance – running a marathon, half-marathon; swimming or a cycling competition: any lowering of performance intensity is a cry for medical investigation.

What does a Heart Stress Test Consist of?

As seen in rapper 50 Cent's video In Da Club – no! I am not behind the times at all!; an endurance test consists of a series of aerobic exercises.

Riding a stationary bike and running on a treadmill, both whose settings can be changed to reflect steep terrain or a gradual incline – the better to tax your heart.

Electrodes affixed to your chest and back allow recording of your heart's activity.

The exercise physiologist accountable for your test results will evaluate your cardiovascular system at peak performance, and at rest.

Two other critical heart conditions that such a stress test can reveal are:

  • ischemia – inadequate blood supply; and
  • cardiorespiratory deficiency – any condition relating to the heart or lungs

    athletes must submit to a physical assessment test prior to a bout
    Professional athletes must routinely undergo fitness assessments

Heart Stress Tests for Professional Athletes

Unlike us, who are maybe not paid to engage in the sports we are passionate about, those who enjoy a fitness career submit constant, albeit indirect, proof of their overall fitness and muscular endurance.

Because of their very public performances, professional athletes give us a benchmark of what to look for – of setting fitness goals for ourselves in the course of personal training sessions.

And also, what physical condition to beware of.

Professional athletes must submit to heart or muscular endurance tests when:

  • their coach, the club president or a team sponsor needs to verify their players' state of health
  • for legal reasons
    • routine health exams instilled by the League or any other organisation concerning itself with the health and safety of athletes.

The Ruffier-Dickson Index

To effectively measure your aerobic endurance, this 3-step test, also called the RDI, is most often used.

  • Step 1 consists of laying absolutely still for five minutes, after which your pulse rate will be recorded
    • this standardises your resting heart rate, a baseline against which its rate under load will be measured
  • Step 2: 30 squats under 45 seconds
    • feet firmly planted, arms extending on the squat; done in regular rhythm
  • Step 3: again lay perfectly still for one minute, after which your pulse rate is again measured

As the test's compound name indicates, it was established by two individuals – who each had a different interpretation of the resultant data.

The Dickson Index is considered more reliable and revealing than the its counterpart but, for either one, a result below 0 indicates excellent effort and conditioning.

A mid-range score would then mean a corresponding medium degree of conditioning.

A high number represents poor conditioning and effort.

What to do About a Low Result on Fitness Assessments

Talk with your physician to see if a course of corrective exercises is advisable.

Corrective exercises are those that help with heart and musculoskeletal conditioning ahead of more strenuous workouts.

If your doctor recommends doing so, water-aerobics or other low-impact exercises are in order.

Talk with a certified personal trainer

Such a fitness specialist can divulge training techniques that will not unduly stress your heart or musculature.

S/he may then discuss functional training.

Such a program design would condition you for greater mobility and activity in your daily life.

It would include exercise activities conducive to a healthy lifestyle, and also nutritional guidelines.

As your body becomes more conditioned, you could perhaps start exercising to music, and even start building muscular strength.

Your heart is the most important muscle in your body; it would benefit you greatly to keep it conditioned.

Your fitness trainer may prescribe:

  • resistance training: using dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells; bands or even isometrics, you would push against that force to build muscular endurance
  • strength training calls for the same type of sports equipment but with greater weight and fewer reps, to build muscle mass and sculpt your body
  • aerobic activities: Zumba, Pilates, cycling or running.

All of these should be done under the watchful eye of a personal fitness trainer, and never should you train harder than s/he advises.

Cheer for athletes; cheer for yourself: you're getting fit!
Passed your endurance test? Fist pump is permitted! Source: Pixabay Credit: Damonify

Your Fitness Certification Did Not Go Well...

What if your health certification exams did not yield satisfactory results?

Or worse: what if you had a cardiac episode and your doctor recommends diet and exercise?

There is no greater motivator to start fitness classes near me or fitness training than a cardiac episode.

Even though your heart should not be overly stressed there are still plenty of training programs you can participate in to regain strength and fitness.

  • Yoga, in all of its forms, is essentially a stretching routine that helps to tone and condition your body while ridding your mind of stress.
    • Some forms of yoga focus on breathing and meditation: a good starting point in your fitness career if you are at risk of heart disease.
  • Martial Arts: forget about Jackie Chan and his high-energy choreography. Most of the disciplines involve... well, discipline, meaning: control of your body, muscles, breathing and heart rate.
    • Tai chi is considered by some to be a martial art and by others to be a philosophy. It is practiced with relatively slow moves which, if done correctly, by the end of the routine, work every muscle in the body
  • Water aerobics are especially suited for special populations, and are recommended for senior fitness

When we were younger, eating anything we wanted with no worries about body fat, physical education was nothing but a course we had to take in school.

Now, we are more health-conscious and wiser about fitness education. We try to learn healthy eating habits adapted to our metabolic rates.

We are invested in our lives and motivated to stay healthy: for our children, for our parents and for our loved ones.

Do you have the stamina, the body composition, the strength and conditioning to win at this race called life?

Submit to an endurance test before engaging in a personal training program. Then, the answer to that question will be a resounding YES!

A victory fist pump is optional.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.