The Best Kept Secret at the YMCA

At 6:30 AM this morning, I headed over to the Airport Road YMCA to do something I’ve been wanting to for years: I had an official YMCA Fitness Assessment scheduled with trainer Kathy Renard.
I’m going to skip right to it: a YMCA Fitness Assessment is a wonderful thing, and you should totally do it. It’s surprisingly unpublicized — Kathy knows all about it, and there’s a BIG rack of white binders in the YMCA fitness office all about it. But there’s not all that much on the Internet about it, and most folks at the Y were fuzzy on the subject. “Er… what kind of fitness… test… were you interested in?”
But that all changed after some minimal persistence. Here’s what Kathy measured on me, in a 90-minute session (my numbers from this morning in parentheses):

  • Resting heart rate (55bpm) and blood pressure (125/90)
  • Height (5’10.5″), weight (237lbs) and percentage body fat, measured both with an electric doodad and also with skinfold calipers (31.4%)
  • Circumference of chest (45.5″), biceps (13.5″), forerarm (11″), waist (42.5″), hips (45.5″), thigh (24″), and calf (17″).
  • Sit-and-reach flexibility, where you reach down with legs straight and push a little indicator thingy on a steel box (26″)
  • Aerobic Endurance, where you step onto and off of a box to a metronome beat for three minutes, then measure your heart rate immediately following (152bpm)
  • Core endurance, where you do as many sit-ups as you can in one minute, and then measure heart rate (36 completed, HR 125 bpm)
  • Upper body endurance, where you do as many pushups as you can in one minute (I failed after 7!)
  • Lower body strength, where you do as many one-legged leg presses as you can in one minute, then measure heart rate (I did 28, HR 137bpm)
  • Upper body strength, where you do as many bench presses as you can in one minute, then measure heart right afterwards (I did 27, HR 115bpm)

This is already really informative and awesome, and confirms some things that I had hoped (I’m in decent cardio shape), some things I had feared (seven pushups? sheesh!) and some things I have gotten good at ignoring in the mirror (hips three inches bigger than waist? aw, hell no.)
So now I have goals that are more finely-tuned than a single integer number on a scale.
The best part is that I’ll go back in a month and do it again. A month after THAT, I’ll do it AGAIN, and then six months after that. This is fantastic. It’s not just weight (weight is important, but it’s not a great motivator for me), and it’s not just exercise level (ditto.) But being able to see changes in my hip measurement? Huge. Being able to do EIGHT pushups next time? I sure hope so. Getting quantitative proof that my daily Ba Duan Jin is actually improving my hamstring flexibility? SHIT yeah!
So, if you’re reading this, I completely 100% totally recommend getting on board the best-kept secret at the YMCA. Call up your local Y and ask for the “YMCA Fitness Assessment.” It’s worth a whole stack of fit bits!
Plus, it makes you feel a little bit like Ivan Drago, sitting there on the decline press rack with a trainer taking your pulse. I can’t pretend that isn’t a little bit of the fun.

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