I'm very lucky to work for an employer that is focused on health and supports and encourages all employees to live healthier lifestyles through health coaching and also a well subsidized corporate fitness center. One thing that our fitness center offers is a yearly fitness challenge called LifeMasters which entails fitness and health testing for prizes. Prize levels are gold, silver, and bronze and are determined by achieving points in each test. Prizes range from free snacks at the snack bar to free locker for a year and even free gym membership. I enrolled because who wouldn't want the chance to receive a free gym membership!
In August the testing dates were unveiled and I began thinking about the fitness testing that I would have to complete for LifeMasters. The testing is all done in one sitting and you can only redo the test once. I signed up for testing on November 15th because it gave me some time to prepare! All of the tests are separated out with results targets by age range and also sex so that a female has a different target than a man for the test.
I knew that my weight was going to have a big impact on my testing since one of the key tests is a body composition test. I decided after reading some blogs to try out the Advocare 24-day challenge. It was just what I needed to get my eating in control and begin losing weight. The Advocare program works by completing a 10 day cleanse and 14 day follow up to reset your metabolism. I enjoyed the structure and really liked the breakfast meal replacement shake. It really helped me reset my dependence on sugar which is one of my biggest weaknesses and something that I constantly have to focus on. Since August I have maintained a 15 pound weight loss and I plan to continue using meal replacement shakes through the holiday season to help maintain nutritional consistency.
I also prepared by attending more boot camp classes in the weeks leading up to my testing date. Strength testing was another test that I was worried about. The test to be done is a simple push-up test which requires the participant to complete push-ups dropping to a distance of two inches from the ground on each repetition. That's pretty low and I was scared at how closely they would monitor the form.
Test morning came around and I headed to the gym. (I actually got confused and went for testing a day early...oops!) The testing required a full fast for necessary blood work tests. Up first were the blood tests which were done for cholesterol and glucose. Two separate mini-vials of blood were drawn and the finger pin prick was probably the most painful part of all the testing for the day. The blood tests took just a few minutes and then the results were captured on my tracking sheet. I was pleasantly surprised by my results which scored me full points for both categories and also a bonus point.
Next up was the fit check to determine cardiovascular fitness. This was a simple test using a polar heart rate monitor to evaluate your resting heart rate and any heart rate variations during the test to determine you cardiovascular fitness. The test administrator entered your information into the watch including height, weight, fitness level, and age and then darkened the room for the 3 minute test. I was happy to discover that I scored a 56 which translates to an elite level.
In every fitness test you need to know what the given result means to benefit from it. In Polar Fitness Test the person gets a score, Polar OwnIndex, which is comparable to VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake in ml.min-1.kg-1), a commonly used descriptor of aerobic fitness. VO2max is a good indicator of performance in endurance sports. The range of the OwnIndex is the same as that for VO2max, from 25 which can be measured for unfit sedentary individual to 95 which is the level reached by Olympic athletes such as top cross-country skiers. VO2max is highest in sports that involve large muscle groups such as cross-country skiing and cycling. (excerpt from www.polarusa.com)
Next I moved on to the dreaded Bod Pod. This required stripping down to my swimsuit and placing a fabric swim cap on. While the machine was calibrated, I stepped on a traditional scale to capture my weight.
Then I got in the bod pod for the 1st of 2 tests. The bod pod tests using air displacement to determine your body fat and fat free mass. The test was very simple for how much I had stressed about it over the previous months. I definitely still have work to do for next year's challenge in regards to my body composition.
After completing the bod pod, I put my workout clothes back on and headed to the final testing stop...strength and flexibility. The flexibility test was the simple sit and reach test. I had not done a sit and reach test since school and the Presidential Fitness tests! Thank heavens we got three tries on this one because it took me until the 3rd try to hit my gold goal distance. Next year I need to warm up my hamstrings a little more before the test. The strength test was the push-up test and I wasn't too surprised to see the wooden block on the mat so that the test administrator could determine if the push-ups were going low enough. He counted out the push-ups as I went and gave form corrections a couple times. I barely made it to the 24th push-up which had been my goal to get full points. That last one to hit 24 wasn't pretty but he counted it!
Here's a summary of the points that I earned on each of the tests...
Glucose - 1 of 1
Cholesterol - 3 of 3
Cholesterol Ratio - 1 bonus
Blood Pressure - 3 of 3
Body Composition - 0 of 3 - only .4% away from 1 point
Strength - 3 of 3
Flexibility - 3 of 3
Fit Check - 3 of 3
Bonus - 2 of 3 - completed 2 races to secure race points
Total - 19 points for gold status
I just barely squeaked by with gold status! I have plenty of room for improvement next year in several categories. I will continue to work to improve my body composition and weight which will help other categories. I also missed out on bonus point opportunities in both the strength and flexibility categories. I had told myself I needed to do 24 pushups and I think that mentally I set myself up to stop at that point. I am pumped that I got the necessary points for gold status and can't wait for my free membership to start!