Earlier this week, I put myself through a "mile test." I clocked in at 6 minutes and 48 seconds, which is a time that I'm super proud of. But it also made me realize that I hadn't tested my mile time since my high school track days... which were more than a decade ago. If you ever played a high school or college sport, you likely remember going through some sort of fitness test at the beginning of the season in order to see where your performance was. But as adults—and even for me, as a fitness trainer—this has become a sort of lost art.
But having setting benchmarks in your routine can actually be the most effective way to track your progress (aka whether or not you're getting faster and stronger), and ultimately help you get the most out of your workout. It allows you to know where you're starting off so that you can set goals for where you want to go. And considering we all want to be our best athletes and get the most out of our time in the gym, this is an effective way to do it.
Trying to beat your mile time (truth be told, I'm not totally sure if 6:48 is faster than what I ran in high school) is only one way to test whether or not you're making progress. If you aren't necessarily a runner, I'd recommend putting yourself through a bodyweight test of 100 squats, 100 push-ups, and 100 sit-ups, and seeing how quickly you can get through it. Before you balk at those numbers, it's worth noting that you don't have to do all 100 in a row—you can break them up into five sets of 20 squats, 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, and cycling through, or whatever formulation works for you. Do it once to find your baseline, then do it again every week or two weeks to check your progress (just be sure to keep the same move breakdown every time you do it). If your time is getting faster every time you go through the series, it's a good indicator that your workout is making you stronger.
Really, setting benchmarks all comes down to goal setting. That way, instead of working out just for the sake of working out, you're working toward something even bigger.
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