Benchmarks for fitness

dcestnik

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Considering the broad range of opinions on what constitutes being fit, what are your benchmarks that everyone should have and what it takes in your eyes to be considered an overall machine?

Watching tour de france I see un-athletic weaklings and watching bodybuilders I see 'all show and no go' types of guys. Verbatim from memory of an article by one of the popular crossfitters(Josh Everett?) he stated that he'd like to be considered fast and strong regardless if it's a marathon, football game, bar fight, etc. This definition of fitness is not quantifiable so lets hear your measurement of fitness.

My rubric would probably involve the following:
5k run to show endurance and is a common denominator for the endurance folks
Overhead squat for core strength and flexibility
Crossfit's Grace(30 reps of clean and jerks at 135# for time) for the ability to exert much energy in a short time frame
Vertical jump since it is probably the best indicator of athleticism and agility
Bench Press reps at body weight as bench is the standard for the 'lift in front of the mirror @ golds gym' guys
Ruck sun up to sun down to show you can keep on the move
 

Becca

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Guess your idea of benchmark is more formal than mine. Not that I have any illusions about being in the running for "overall machine" status... I just like to be able to hike where I want to hike, and carry what I need to carry, without feeling like I am going to lay down and die :)

Don't get me wrong, your criteria sound like reasonable measures of fitness. It's just that the main reason I want to be in shape (beside staying healthy I guess) is so I can do the most of what I want to do, with the least amount of misery. We have done the same hike in trip for caribou every year for the past four years. Year one it took us something like 8 hours, and we only made it 2/3 of the way to where we camped in subsequent years. Last couple of years it's been between 4-5 hours to go the full 12 miles, and that's with the same or more weight than we carried the first year, and I still had the energy to go after a 'bou the night we got there. I have done a lot to get into/maintain better fitness since year one, do I am pleased with the improvement. Maybe this year I can go even faster, with more weight...
 

BigSurArcher

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I don't think you can set an overall benchmark for "everyone". It just depends on how each individual decides to train. There are many ways to become an overall machine, and the "right" way to do it is by finding a way that you enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, you won't put in maximum effort. Fitness is so personal that one guy's (or gal's) benchmark means nothing to the next. I can squat 350 for 4 perfect reps, but that doesn't mean I am more fit than someone who can't. For example, my benchmarks include being able to ride my bike 100 miles in under 5.5 hours, keeping my body fat below 6%, while keeping my body weight above 165. I feel and look like I'm in pretty damn good shape, but I'm sure there are people in better shape than me who's cycling or body fat %age numbers aren't as good. But the problem with benchmarks is... why stop there? Why ever be satisfied? Now I want to be under 5:15 on my next century ride, and I want to cut my body fat down to 3-4% while bulking up to 170. I want to squat 400 lbs. I want to increase my max HR from 222 to 230 and reduce my RHR from 41 to somewhere in the 30's. Thinking in goals rather than benchmarks keeps me much more motivated to get better. Hell just the term "benchmark" implies a flat line, or a place that gets no higher. With goals, the sky is the limit. As Cam Hanes puts it... Be better today than yesterday. Realistically, that can't always happen. But if you have that mindset and don't worry about comparing yourself with the fitness achievements of others, everything will come together just fine.
 

Doj4Whlr

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I have to agree with becca in that my benchmarks (goals) are designed to support the activities I enjoy. Just a couple of comments based on experience (lessons learned): 1. You can't judge a book by it's cover is an old idiom that is so true when it comes to the physical capability of people; 2. Body fat content of 5-6% would be considered my minimum desirable going in for a long hunt but 3% would be out of the question.

Short background- Over the past 14 years or so, I've went from power lifting (with good grades I might add) to amatuer body building for a short time (wasn't fun) and now to a functional focus. All the while I could run 10 milers and ruck all day as required. This evolution has been good for me as it has provided a solid foundation of nutritional awareness and anatomy- understanding how to get the most from my body without abusing it (well, sometimes).

I will say that goal setting (benchmarks) is more difficult for functional training. It also requires more imagination and discipline to stay on track. I would say that now I use heart rate and recovery rate as my pinnacle benchmark during a given activity coupled with muscle failure for applicable exercises. I believe this is the way to go for a life of physical fitness that supports my habits.

Sorry I wasn't much help with the benchmarks. If you would have asked me 7 years ago, my answer would have been different.
 

les welch

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Watching tour de france I see un-athletic weaklings and watching bodybuilders I see 'all show and no go' types of guys.


The tour riders are unathletic and weak? Bodybuilders nothing but show? I gotta say you have a different outlook on things than I do. I guess it is only 2161 miles rode in 21 days..of which 9 of those days are mountain rides with each day averaging 102 miles....

Whatever goals each individual desires are what will keep that person in shape and in mental readiness to keep working out. Having to achieve a certain "benchmark" will do nothing but bore and burnout most people. I ultimately train to hunt, but use a variety of techniques to keep changing up things physically and mentally. Keeping it all fresh so to speak.
 
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dcestnik

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This is not a debate free thread so lets hear it. So far most people have indicated that fitness isn't measured in seconds or pounds but the ability to do what they enjoy.

As for endurance athletes and body builders, they are impressive. Body builders have more attention on their diet and body than probably any other and professional bicyclists hearts and lungs are developed to super-human levels but in my eyes they are specialists in a narrow area. Even then I'd probably bet most bodybuilders could run a sub 30 minute 5K and most bicyclists could crush an army PT test. Football players run 300y shuttle as a measure of general fitness even though it has almost no correlation to on the field skill. The intention was to see what everyone's ideal of fitness, maybe someone might have something like this http://artofmanliness.com/2009/09/1...-life-5-fitness-benchmarks-a-man-must-master/
 

tstowater

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There are people with much more expertise on this subject than me, but here is my .02 worth. I see people at the gym who work out on one activity and become much better at that particular activity than me, just like the pro bicyclists or the lifters. I work with a personal trainer to help me focus on the activities needed to get ready for the next important hunt. A prairie dog hunt in South Dakota does not take near the physical preparedness as a sheep or goat hunt in Alaska. I'm training for the later and sure enjoyed shooting the dogs, kinda target practice of sorts. I am trying to get to the physical and mental state that says the mountains are not going to beat me; that I am going to enjoy the hunt; and my chances of success are not going to compromised by lack of physical or mental toughness. That is my benchmark and will be meaningful to some, but not all. Last, but not least, if you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel or otherwise enjoy it, you are not likely to continue with the process.
 
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dcestnik

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There are people with much more expertise on this subject than me, but here is my .02 worth. I see people at the gym who work out on one activity and become much better at that particular activity than me, just like the pro bicyclists or the lifters. I work with a personal trainer to help me focus on the activities needed to get ready for the next important hunt. A prairie dog hunt in South Dakota does not take near the physical preparedness as a sheep or goat hunt in Alaska. I'm training for the later and sure enjoyed shooting the dogs, kinda target practice of sorts. I am trying to get to the physical and mental state that says the mountains are not going to beat me; that I am going to enjoy the hunt; and my chances of success are not going to compromised by lack of physical or mental toughness. That is my benchmark and will be meaningful to some, but not all. Last, but not least, if you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel or otherwise enjoy it, you are not likely to continue with the process.

+1 on the mental toughness and excellent attitude
 

ohhiitznik

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Being fit as possible is different for everyone. But here's the best benchmark that can apply to all people at all times. Being as well rounded in all aspects that you will endure is a measure of fitness. What good is deadlifting 700 lbs if you cannot run 1 mile? You can balance your deficiencies to become as fit as possible. In my instance, I have huge amounts of strength, but I lack in overall stamina. So I'm sacrificing strength to increase stamina. Finding the balance of both where you feel comfortable in both aspects is where you need to strive for. My max deadlift was 700 lbs, but my mile time was a piss poor 8 minutes. I've been sacrificing my extreme strength levels to increase stamina. And I can say at 260 lbs I can do 22 pullups, squat 550 lbs 1RM deadlift 615 1RM Clean 405 1RM Row 2k meters in 6:15. Balance your deficiencies to become as fit as possible. Sure I love lifting heavy things because I'm good at it. Don't gravitate towards your strengths. I hate burpees, running, rowing, all bodyweight workouts but I do them because I know that is where I need to increase my capacity. Work on your weaknesses and you will find your benchmark.
 

RosinBag

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I know slobs that are as mentally tough as anyone who get around in the wilderness better than most. I also know supremely fit guys who fold in the wilderness when it gets tough. I would rather have the mental toughness than the physical prowess. The physical stuff can be learned, trained and taught. Mental toughness is something you have within you. All the numbers in numbers associated with pounds, reps, speed, etc., don't mean $hit if you are not tough mentally. I see it day in and day out at work.

Just for example, Navy Seals, mentally tough, I would say definitely. But when you watch BUDs training videos there are some strong physical dudes that fold and many smaller not so physically gifted that excel.

If you are mentally tough and physically gifted, best of both worlds.
 

Ramey Jackson

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I know slobs that are as mentally tough as anyone who get around in the wilderness better than most. I also know supremely fit guys who fold in the wilderness when it gets tough. I would rather have the mental toughness than the physical prowess. The physical stuff can be learned, trained and taught. Mental toughness is something you have within you. All the numbers in numbers associated with pounds, reps, speed, etc., don't mean $hit if you are not tough mentally. I see it day in and day out at work.

Just for example, Navy Seals, mentally tough, I would say definitely. But when you watch BUDs training videos there are some strong physical dudes that fold and many smaller not so physically gifted that excel.

If you are mentally tough and physically gifted, best of both worlds.

^**^
This!!!

We are all wired different~
 

Ryan Avery

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Rosin, I agree 100%. I have seen the tough guy freeze more than once in the heat of battle. Mental toughness is always over looked and hard to gauge!
 

Trout bum

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Great thread dcestnik.
Not sure about pounds lifted or times recorded. I knew last year that my benchmarks were not met when the hills seemed a little steeper, distances seemed slightly farther than I remembered and the air had less oxygen than years past. Last year for the first time I had to hunt myself into shape. Not good.
Physical fitness IMHO is about not feeling pain and fatigue when it matters. It is about enjoying the backcountry on day 10 not just day 1. It is about making sure your most important "piece of gear" does not fail. Elk are not planted on the couch.
I agree with Rosin that mental toughness/fitness is critical and, to some extent, comes from within. I also think that it can be acquired and refined over time as you are exposed to more physical demands and stressful triggers in life and in the backcountry (injury, irritated critters, etc.). Positive energy and the ability to stay even keeled are important in maintaining a certain level of mental comfort. Physical strength PLUS mental fortitude allows for prolonged backcountry enjoyment for sure. Happy hunting is a good thing.
 

robby denning

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In our personal training program, we use these parameters for general fitness/health:

Blood Pressure.
Cardiorespitory fitness (measured by a VO2 Max test)
Strength (bicep, generally reflects the trend of total body strength)
Body Fat % (pinch caliper method, 3 site)
Flexibility (low back, like bicep strength, establishes a trend)
BMI (accurate enough for the previously sedentary crowd)
Resting Heart Rate.
Blood lipid profile (cholesterol, trigs, resting glucose, etc).

Beyond this, you can use a bunch of different markers for fitness and we sometimes do if we need to get goal specific like run times, verticle jump, etc.

As much as most people hate it, it's best to set parameters according to age group (except blood lipid profiles), i.e. we only compare people to those within +/- 5 years their age. This is the fairest way to do it. Now an incredible 60 year old can score higher than an average 25 year old, but that's not typical.

Anyway, thats how we do it. Other good ideas have been mentioned.
 

tstowater

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Robby's comments measure the pure "physical" aspects. They do not measure either desire or mental toughness. Obviously, someone with excellent physical assets and the desire and mental toughness is the best, but very few of us are going to be able to acheive that. As I stated before, the benchmark is based on what you are trying to acheive which is not necessarily of any value to someone else, or vice versa. In the long haul, I would bet on someone with average physical assets with extreme desire and mental toughness over the extreme physical asset person who doesn't have the desire and mental toughness.
 

RosinBag

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I agree that some mental toughness can be aquired. Generally though it comes from the heat of battle or an extreme event in someones life. You don't get to put yourself in those situations enough to train to it unless you have specific job types that put you in them routinely. I have seen many people get better as they face these situations, so I know you can get your mental toughness better with time. Hard to measure it with any certainty, but you generally know who has it when you see it.

It takes a ton of mental strength to spend 7 to 10 days in the wilderness alone without any other hman contact. So those that can do it, are pretty sound.
 
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dcestnik

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In our personal training program, we use these parameters for general fitness/health:

Blood Pressure.
Cardiorespitory fitness (measured by a VO2 Max test)
Strength (bicep, generally reflects the trend of total body strength)
Body Fat % (pinch caliper method, 3 site)
Flexibility (low back, like bicep strength, establishes a trend)
BMI (accurate enough for the previously sedentary crowd)
Resting Heart Rate.
Blood lipid profile (cholesterol, trigs, resting glucose, etc).

Beyond this, you can use a bunch of different markers for fitness and we sometimes do if we need to get goal specific like run times, verticle jump, etc.

As much as most people hate it, it's best to set parameters according to age group (except blood lipid profiles), i.e. we only compare people to those within +/- 5 years their age. This is the fairest way to do it. Now an incredible 60 year old can score higher than an average 25 year old, but that's not typical.

Anyway, thats how we do it. Other good ideas have been mentioned.


VO2 max would be interesting, BMI and bicep not so much.
 
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