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The secret to avoiding injury




If somebody were to ask you how fit you are, what would you say?
In many ways it depends who's asking; if a professional athlete were posing the question you might think twice about flexing your muscles, but if it's big Geoff from work you'll probably be more confident about your general level of health and well being. While one person may feel fairly pleased with themselves if they can climb the stairs without breathing heavily, another might humbly say they are out of shape because they are tired after a 30 minute jog. Fitness can be such a subjective concept that it's hard to define what 'being fit' is beyond what is a healthy amount of exercise for the average person to do. In relative terms, your level of fitness can be identified by whether you can manage an activity, how quickly you can do it and how long it takes you to recover. To be fit is to be capable - perhaps this was more of a life-or-death point during the world's hunter-gatherer days, but who says you won't still need stamina and power to escape a terrifying situation one day?

If you're healthy and you know it touch your toes
So where do you start if you want to work out whether you can happily claim to be fit? You should also be able to easily climb a flight of stairs, touch your toes and do ten sit-ups, five press-ups and 20 star-jumps. If you're nodding your head right now, then bravo, you are doing a healthy amount of exercise. However, for anyone particularly sporty, this assessment may feel a little underwhelming - isn't there some way of testing yourself more seriously rather than simply assuring yourself that you're doing the bare minimum? Yes, there is.

Some tests for people who need answers
There are countless ways of testing how fit you are, ranging from assessments that focus on specific parts of your body to others that look at general cardio fitness. Pop into your local Fitness First and ask a member of the fitness team for advice if you're not sure which to go for. If you're considering a long-distance walk, you may want to try the Rockport Fitness Walking Test. By walking a mile as fast as you can and checking your heart rate at the end, a widely-used formula will place you in one of six categories of fitness. One of the classic methods of testing fitness is the bleep test. Here you do 20 metre shuttle runs and the time between the 'bleeps' decreases gradually. You can tell how fit you are by which level you can actually do the distance in the allotted time. Bear in mind that only top athletes achieve the top three levels. There are a number of tests that involve steps, such as the Canadian Step Test and the Harvard Step Test. As expected, you'll be asked to step up and down for a period of time and your fitness is determined by your heart rate at various points. The most important thing to remember is that just because you can't pass a test or complete a task now, that doesn't mean you won't be able to do it in the future. Hard work, a healthy lifestyle and a positive mind could have you nailing many of these challenges in no time at all.

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