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Fitness: Readiness Assessment & Setting Priorities

My biggest concern as a personal trainer was always the safety of my clients – both physically and medically. Over the years a common theme emerged with each new client relationship that I developed and that was how unprepared people were to really engage in a significant training program and what skills and knowledge they would be required to develop for success. Physicians were often unprepared to advise their patients on what to do, how to proceed, or what limitations and issues needed to be acknowledged by their patients before engaging a trainer to help them “get to the next level”. 

Often the people I interviewed were unaware of the impact of medications they were on and the physical issues that represented real risk. I had to “uncover” what I could in my interviews so that I could safely help them move forward and very often I had to ask them to “check in” again with their doctors with questions that I needed answered. It is in this spirit that I share with you my concerns and thoughts about starting and implementing a fitness program so that we can all agree that safety MUST always come first – and that we “look out” for ourselves in order to safely succeed. It is all about establishing proper priorities and finding a path to keeping them alive.

The Assessment

Medical evaluations are a must if you have not been active for the past year or are over forty (probably 30 to be safe). If you have any significant medical issues that required intervention and treatment – surgeries, illnesses, injuries that required treatment, or any family history of heart disease and stroke etc. it is important to get clearance before proceeding. It is always advisable to receive a physical and get clearance before starting a fitness program if there is any doubt about your readiness to exercise. 

Many fitness facilities have gotten less rigorous on requiring a medical clearance from physicians for their members. As a result I have seen people of all ages with all manner of challenges navigating the gym alone with no supervision. I see this every day in my facility and it concerns me deeply. There are people getting out of their cars who can barely walk upright going into the gym unsupervised and the staff barely notices. I find examples such as these to be unacceptable and totally wrong. I believe if you need help then ASK for it – regardless of you how feel about asking for help.

 I have decided to share 12 important questions with you that most of us need to answer in order to properly prepare for starting a fitness program. Each one is potentially a “red flag” question and if you answer “yes” to any of them it is wise to check in with a doctor before proceeding: 

  1. Have you ever been told that you have a heart problem?
  2. Has your doctor ever told you that you have high blood pressure?
  3. Has your doctor ever told you that you have elevated cholesterol?
  4. Have you ever had chest pains?
  5. Have you ever experienced dizziness or fainting?
  6. Has your doctor ever told you that you have diabetes mellitus?
  7. Do you have any bone or joint problems?
  8. Do you smoke?
  9. Have been sedentary and are over 40?
  10. Are you currently taking prescription medications?
  11. Do you have a family history of coronary heart disease?
  12. Has your doctor ever told you that there is a reason physically that you not exercise?

If you answer yes to any of these questions DO consult a physician before beginning an exercise program and be sure to find out what limitations and or cautions you need to be aware of so that your program is safe and effective – and meets your needs and goals. Fitness professionals MUST address these and other issues before proceeding and I see a lack of effort every day at my club and it concerns me because lives could be at stake. This is why I am emphasizing this information up front here in this article to insure that you know that it is always “better to be safe than sorry” and that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

Prioritizing and Accepting Your Limitations

The 7 keys to fitness are: Power, speed, quickness, strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. These keys form the foundation for fitness success because where you find your weakest link you will find your “point of access” on how to proceed – and your first priority. Setting proper priorities and knowing your limitations is important for positive growth and change to occur in your body. Many older clients that I trained had balance and strength issues so I was constantly reminded to insure that significant training time was dedicated to specific exercises and balance drills that would improve those two aspects of their fitness profiles.

Let me highlight for you some of the keys to identifying priorities that make sense and how to work with limitations that might have hindered you in the past. First, remember performance. What are you trying to achieve? Walk around the block or walk five miles? Climb stairs without pain or prepare to climb a mountain? Ride a bike around the neighborhood or compete in a 100 mile bike race? These and other examples can guide you to decide just what you want to achieve through your training.

My Evolving Landscape – Priorities and my life

My priorities are simple and I repeat them every day. I pray and meditate up to an hour (when I feel the need), I train my body for up to two hours each day for strength, power, speed, balance, flexibility, endurance and quickness – agility. Finally I eat what I can as best I can – with treats of course – and drink water, 1% milk, and enjoy my occasional A & W Diet Root Beer and of course orange juice. Mind, body and spirit are my focus now in order to help life be better than I found it and the purpose behind these activities is the deep desire to help people live more fulfilling and healthy lives. 

With all the distractions of modern life, and the advancing and more invasive technology becomes in our lives, the more difficult it will become to find the “space” for quiet and peace. I can honestly share with you that I am not ever going to be “tied” to technology because I value my “me” time and the places where I can access peace and harmony – and that is within me. My advice? Don’t take my word for it – try it! Spend time asking yourself “what do you want your life to become and are you willing to put the effort into whatever activities will enable you to get it?” Only you can answer this question but it is well worth asking!

Nick’s Tips

  1. Take time to reflect on your priorities and devise a plan – and schedule – that will allow you to address your most important needs. Life is precious – don’t let a day pass without THOUGHT!
  2. Take your physical and emotional – and spiritual needs if you are so inclined – seriously and make sure you DO something each day to support them.
  3. Identify “stress points” in your life and find ways to alleviate their negative impact on your life. Unresolved anger, hate, resentment and bitterness etc. have a way of harming our health – and our bodies. DEAL with it!
  4. Get up and MOVE – sitting is literally killing us. Researchers say we are literally “sitting our way to an early death”.
  5. If you have bad habits that need changing – taking drugs, smoking, judging others harshly, being vindictive or hateful (there is a lot of that going around these days) – make a point to “change your ways”. Don’t be a victim of circumstances but the “agent for change in the world.”
  6. This is my priority every day – “be the example of the change I wish to see in the world”. When I am lifting weights, running or otherwise thinking about my role in the world I am activating my subconscious mind to help me evolve into the human being I wish to become. I am a “work in progress and will always be adapting and changing to insure I am being the “guide and coach” that will be my most influential and inspiring.
  7. Finally, take time to express your love to those who love you and remember “today is all you have: so make the very best of it that you can!”

MFN Industry Expert