9 Ways To Prep For Your Fitness Assessment And Score Better Results

Going for a fitness assessment is terrifying. I know because I, along with the rest of the WH team, recently went for a Discovery Vitality Fitness Assessment as part of the #WHGetsFit challenge. It wasn’t my first rodeo. And as medical examinations go, the test itself is actually not bad at all – after all, a bit of light stretching and a stint on a watt bike are a far cry from, say, the cold touch of a speculum – but the build-up is still a freakin’ killer. Has all that hard work in the gym been for nothing? What if they make me run? Will I have to do some weird move I’ve never done before? These are the questions that haunted my nightmares on the eve of my first assessment. But forewarned is forearmed and this time round, the stress-ometer was sitting closer to “slightly concerned” compared with previous years’ “this is how I die”. So to help you get over the angst, here are some hacks that will help you ace the test.

Remember: A Fitness Assessment Is A Good Idea

Around about the time you’re swapping your usual morning coffee for a sad cup of herbal tea (see “avoid caffeine” below) you’re going to wonder why you signed up for this stupid thing in the first place. This is why: if you want to set proper goals, you need to know where you’re at now. If your test is coming at the start of a new challenge, don’t stress about the results – even if you’re coming off a low base, you’re only going to get better. And if you’re doing the test for Discovery Vitality points, you still have a chance to improve your result. “You can do more than one test a year, to help track your progress,” says Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality. “Vitality members get rewarded with maximum of 7 500 points a year for a Vitality Fitness Assessment.” Be sure to throw in a health check as well – they’ll check your blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and there’s an optional HIV test. One-stop shop.

When you’re Serena in your mind, but the test says no…

Know What To Expect

The scariest part is the unknown, so don’t be afraid to ask what your test will entail. Overall fitness is measured on cardio fitness, strength, balance, flexibility and body composition – so whatever test you’re doing, you can expect to have these measured in one way or another. All these tests are designed to pick up weaknesses or imbalances that could cause you problems later on. If you uncover any, the biokineticist will give you advice for addressing them. “Cardiorespiratory fitness can be used together with other risk factors to predict early mortality and chronic disease development,” says Leach. In other words, the more cardio fit you are, the lower your chances of developing a chronic disease or ending in an early grave. “The strength and flexibility tests can help detect any muscle imbalances between weakness and lack of flexibility that can assist in injury prevention and rehabilitation of a current injury,” she says.

They never mentioned a treadmill…

When You Book…

Make sure it’s not around your period. The first time I did the test, my cholesterol was high. It all seemed very unusual until I confessed that I was on my period. Turns out, that time of the month can affect more than your cravings. On that note, you should also disclose any medication you’re on and existing health conditions, says Leach – it could all affect your results.

Period got me like…

Two weeks before…

Up your water intake to three litres per day. A high waist circumference has been linked with health problems such as heart disease and stroke, so set yourself up for good news. Drinking more water will reduce water retention, so your results aren’t skewed by puffiness. While you’re at it, eat less salt.

Is my tummy flat yet?

The day before…

Avoid strenuous exercise. You will have to do some exercise moves and you don’t need stiff muscles cramping your style. During my assessment at the Discovery Store, I cycled on a watt bike while wearing a heart rate monitor and had to aim to maintain a certain speed, which gradually increased. This is to measure VO2 max (cardio fitness). If you do the test at the gym, you could opt to walk on a treadmill instead and those unable to cycle or walk can use a cranking machine. Flexibility tests involved movements like touching my hands behind my back, lying on my back and raising one leg and twisting side to side. I also had to do a single push-up from the floor (no knees), a single squat and a lunge on each leg. And there was a test that involved standing on a step and lowering one heel to the floor. “The Biokineticist is looking at the movement pattern of the knee and pelvis – if the knee collapses inwards or the pelvis drops while stepping down it can indicate a weakness in the muscles stabilising the joints (knee, hip and SI-joint) and can result in injuries in these areas,” explains Leach.

That’ll do for today…

The night before…

Pass on the wine. Alcohol in your system could skew the results of your blood tests, increase your heart rate and mess with your coords. Help yourself to another glass of water instead.

Scrabble, anyone?

On the day…

Avoid caffeine. Like that glass of wine you skipped last night, caffeine could elevate your heart rate, making you seem less fit than you are. Plus, it could raise your blood pressure. If your test is early in the morning, don’t eat anything either. My triglycerides were higher than optimal and it was put down to the goat’s milk and honey in my Corn Flakes. If your test is later in the day, you’ll need to eat, but avoid anything sweet or fatty and keep the portion small.


15 Minutes Before…

Do a quick dynamic stretch. Particularly if the test is first thing in the morning when you’re still blinking sleep from your eyes. A few shoulder and ankle circles, leg swings, roll-downs and swaying side to side will limber you up nicely for those flexibility tests.

You should wear pants though.

5 Minutes Before…

Go for a wee. You’ll be lighter, your tummy will be flatter and you’ll feel a whole lot more comfortable on that watt bike.

READ MORE ON: Fitness Fitness Advice

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