People often talk about fitness goals and how important it is to have achievable milestones against which to measure your progress. But before you look to the future and create a vision for where you want to be a year, five years, or twenty years from now, it's important to take an honest assessment of where you are at present. This baseline analysis of your fitness is meant to be a minimum or starting point. It will be essential for future comparisons and performance tracking.
WHERE TO START
Baselining begins by answering a simple set of questions such as:
- How fast can I run a mile?
- How many pushups can I do without stopping?
- What's my BMI?
The starting questions are totally unique to each individual, but they should all focus on where you're at today. Only once you have a solid picture of your current state (written down) can you begin to envision your target future state.
FOUNDATION FOR GOAL SETTING
Instead of the familiar "I want to lose thirty pounds this year" or "I'm going to get back into running" when January 1st rolls around, baselining helps you set relevant and achievable goals. Relevant because your baseline should focus only on areas you actually want to improve. If you're mainly concerned about increasing stamina for long distance running in 2017, then a one rep max bench press may not be the right baseline for you to test right now.
A baseline will help you keep your goals achievable by showing you where you are today. If you can't do a pullup today, getting your first muscle up may not be realistic in 2017. But, considering that baseline, a goal of accomplishing three pullups by the end of the year is definitely doable.
Your baseline will change as you progress toward your goals. Sometimes it may regress, like after an injury. The process of re-baselining can be an annual activity. As an Air Force Reservist, I'm fortunate to have to re-baseline every year as part of the mandatory fitness test, which consists of one minute max situps, one minute max pushups, a times 1.5 mile run, and a waist measurement. Despite the jokes our Army and Marine counterparts make, the Air Force fitness test is a great assessment of cardiovascular health, muscular strength, endurance, and body composition. In October, after barely exercising in 2016, I wanted to achieve a baseline score of 95%. I surprised myself with a 98.5%. More importantly, I showed myself that I'm in prettty good shape and became motivated to set some challenging goals for 2017.
A solid baseline is the foundation for health goals. And if you plan to set any in 2017, then now is the ideal time to baseline your fitness. If you're a little more advanced, check out this post on Daily Burn by Joe Vennare. I encourage you to go out set one baseline between now and Christmas and report back in the comments section. This is where progress begins.