Do you have a measuring post to gauge how fit you are? Is there a standard you aspire to reach? To surpass? To maintain?

Let’s look at several ways you can assess your true fitness level.

Do the Primal Blueprint Fitness assessment.

This is a simple way to check your capacity for bodyweight fitness. Do the max number of consecutive reps for each Primal Essential Movement. The number of reps you complete in each movement will determine where to begin on that movement’s progression.

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Do the CrossFit baseline WOD.

For time, do:

  • 500 meter row
  • 40 bodyweight squats — full depth, hip crease below knee
  • 30 situps — start with shoulders touching the ground
  • 20 pushups — chest to floor
  • 10 pullups — chin above bar, full extension at the bottom

That’s a very reasonable standard. It tests strength, strength-endurance, and the ability to endure a demanding workout. Here’s how CrossFit interprets times (Male/Female):

3:45, 4:40 — Elite
4:30, 5:35 — Pro
5:15, 6:30 — Expert
6:15, 7:30 — Collegiate
7:15, 8:30 — Intermediate
8:15, 9:30 — Novice
9:15, 10:30 — Beginner
10:00, 11:00 — Cut-Off

Run a mile.

I talked about this extensively several months ago. The mile run really is a nice barometer for overall, “real-world” endurance fitness. A mile’s about as long as you’ll have to run in an “emergency” nowadays, whether it’s back to your apartment because you forgot your phone or through city streets because it just started pouring all of a sudden. Even if you’ve just defeated the Persian army and need to warn your countrymen that the remaining fighters are heading their way with revenge on their minds, you send a text. You don’t run the 26.2 miles back to tell them in person. If anything, you might run around for a mile’s worth, searching for a signal.

In a recent study, men over 50 who could run the mile in 8 minutes or less had “optimal cardiovascular fitness” and a greatly reduced risk of heart disease. For women, it was 9 minutes.

Any fit person, man or woman, should aim for at least 8 minutes or less. The younger you are, the less time it should take. But the best mark of fitness is that your time improves.

Do the maximum aerobic function test.

For regular folks, general trainees and athletes, the mile run is a great barometer of the kind of aerobic fitness they’d need. For more serious endurance athletes, the maximum aerobic function (MAF) test is worthwhile.

Phil Maffetone came up with the MAF, and it’s pretty simple and intuitive. Best for endurance athletes, but anyone interested in their aerobic capacity (which should be everyone, probably) can benefit from taking the test.

  1. Find a fixed course (like a track) and strap on a heart rate monitor.
  2. Start slowly running until you reach 75% of your max heart rate.
  3. Do 8 laps while maintaining that heart rate. Monitor your HR and adjust your speed accordingly to keep it at 75%.
  4. Time yourself.

The MAF also works with cycling, rowing, or any other aerobic pursuit. It’s not strenuous by any means (only 75% of HR), but it is informative. Improving your time on a MAF test means you have become more efficient at low intensity and correlates strongly with an ability to race faster at higher intensities.

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