Brooklyn Personal Trainer: Why do a fitness assessment?

With Brooklyn Personal Trainer we’ll be giving you our best one-on-one exercise and wellness advice and ideas. Brooklyn Personal Trainer articles are meant to get you thinking, get you inspired, get you moving. If you’re in the area, come in and visit us in Prospect Heights – Pura Vida Urban Fitness: 184 Underhill Avenue, Brooklyn NY. Try an intro-package for only $33 per session + tax (for 3 sessions).

At Pura Vida Urban Fitness, every personal training client starts his or her package with a fitness assessment and we periodically (every 12 sessions) check back in to see how how past fitness levels compare with current fitness levels. It does take a little time out of the workout, but we find that it’s well worth it. A personal trainer can be incredibly helpful in showing you how fitness assessments are done (and in some cases having the equipment to do fitness assessments); however, a basic fitness assessment is something that you can accomplish all on your own.

Here’s what we recommend measuring and why:

Resting Heart Rate

Your Resting Heart Rate is a measure of how efficient your heart is at circulating blood throughout your body. As your heart muscle becomes stronger, it will take fewer beats to circulate blood. So a decrease in Resting Heart Rate can indicate that you are getting into better shape. Knowing your resting heart rate can also help you to determine what heart rate target zones will optimize your cardiovascular workouts.

Recovery Heart Rate

Your Recovery Heart Rate is a measure of how efficiently heart rate drops after you complete an exercise that increases demand on your cardiovascular system. Like Resting Heart Rate, Recovery Heart Rate is a good indication of fitness level and overall fitness improvement. There are several tests, such as the beep test, the Harvard Step test, and the three minute step test, that can give you an idea of your recovery heart rate.


In this assessment, strength relates more to endurance than pure force, as it measures the number of repetitions you can do with body weight rather than the amount of weight you can move in one repetition. Specifically, this assessment consists of pushups and crunches. At Pura Vida Urban Fitness, we also test for strength endurance using the plank exercise, as we believe that this can be a helpful measure of your core endurance and stability.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of both two forces. First, systolic pressure is a measure of the pressure upon the artery walls as blood is pumped out of the heart. Second, diastolic pressure is a measure of the pressure upon the artery walls between heart beats. Blood pressure can be measured using a simple blood pressure reader (available for relatively little expense at a local pharmacy). High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to many health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Fortunately, proper nutrition, exercise and stress management can help to lower blood pressure.


Weight loss is a frequent goal for many people and most people have a home scale (if not you can probably use the one at your local gym or your doctor’s office). Carrying excess amounts of weight, especially around the midsection in the form of lipid or fat tissue, is a major precursor to diabetes and heart disease. Weight loss is a measure of the calories you consume being fewer than the calories you expend. The concept sounds simple, yet many people lack the basic knowledge of how to lose weight – and keep weight off – in a way that is both sustainable and facilitative to overall wellness.


Circumference measurements give you yet another way to measure your health progress. While you may have some weeks where you lose fewer pounds than others, taking periodic circumference measurements can give you a second chance at achieving a specific and measurable goal. All you need is a simple tape measurer (preferably something cloth, like those that come in a sewing kit; however, in a pinch, a piece of string and a measuring tape will do as well).

Body Fat Percentage

People often express the desire to lose weight, yet the most beneficial transition to their wellness is not weight loss per say, but rather a change in their body fat composition. Body fat percentage give you an idea of your composition. So you have a  good idea of your progress as you put on muscle and lose fat tissue. While it is most accurate to use a method of measurement such as a BodPod (they have one for use by appointment at Brooklyn College), it is far less expensive and time consuming to use skin fold calipers or if these can’t be accessed some scales now give body fat percentage readings.


It is not enough to make a muscle strong, for greatest ease of movement, as well as injury prevention, muscles need to be able to move through a full range of motion. Flexibility can be measured using a sit and reach test (such as the one done in the Presidential Fitness Assessment) or using a relatively inexpensive and simple tool called a goniometer.


This simple postural assessment consists of two parts. The first part is a static assessment of standing posture. The second part is an assessment of dynamic posture using the overhead squat. Postural assessments give you a good idea of what areas of your kinetic chain might have imbalances. Postural assessments can guide you or your personal trainer in choosing exercises to correct imbalances and thereby, decrease your risk of injury and compounding injury.

The numbers that you generate from the fitness assessment are valuable in creating a profile of your current wellness. You can compare them to measurements of others in your own age and gender group, or you can use them to create personal wellness goals by comparing past measurements to present measurements. We recommend that you do both – the more ways you have to measure your progress the more success you will see as a result of your efforts.

In articles to follow, we will discuss each measurement in the fitness assessment in more detail. If you live in Prospect Heights, a starter personal training package can be a great way to get oriented and determine achievable fitness goals.

In addition, during the Pura Vida Urban Fitness grand opening on Saturday June 18th, we will be providing free 15 minute fitness assessments. You can sign up in advance or just drop in!


“Belly fat in women: Taking — and keeping — it off –” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2011. <>.

“Blood Pressure.” American Heart Association. American Heart Association, n.d. Web. 11 June 2011. <>.

“Hypertension – PubMed Health.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2011. <>.

“Physical Fitness Test: Choose a Challenge: The President’s Challenge.” The President’s Challenge. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2011. <http://www.presidentschallenge/physical/index.shtml>.

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