YEEEEHAW! It's back to school time. All across the country parents are doing the happy dance as their precious offspring are finally getting out from under them and returning to that godsend of an institution that houses them for seven or so blissful hours a day. Back to school means getting things in order, tightening up the family schedule and getting kids back into a regular routine.
It's also a good time to get yourself back on schedule by assessing the summer damage and resuscitating your fitness regime.
Between coordinating kids' activities, indulgent vacations, lazy beach days, barbecues and road trips fueled by convenience-store food, it's easy to miss a few workouts and pack on a few pounds. Or perhaps an overabundance of margarita- and mojito-themed parties have thrown you completely off track and you've stopped exercising altogether. Now with the children in school, parents are getting a wake-up call. They're looking in the mirror for the first time in three months and are horrified to think that they actually wore a swimsuit…in public!
If you've been a bit casual about your diet and fitting in exercise, the best thing to do is to yank the Band-Aid off quick. With one hard pull, face the fact that you've gotten out of shape and need to restart your fitness program. NOW! Take a cue from your kids who, like it or not, because of gym class and school mandates, are returning to regular exercise, particularly if they play a sport. Most athletic practices have already started weeks before the first day of classes. I remember my own returns to school from summer break. I played volleyball, and the beginning of the season was brutal. Being subjected to the dreaded "two-a-day" workouts, to make up for the slothful summer layoff, was excrutiating.
If you're a few years past little league and don't have a sadistic coach to yell at you and make your life miserable, you can still whip yourself into shape. Jump start your program with some old-school fitness by taking The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS) Adult Fitness Test. Just like back in the day when you ran, did sit-ups and pull-ups to see who could claim bragging rights as the fittest in your class, this is the grown-up version of the test. The test measures overall fitness levels, and it is promoted as a jump-off point for people who know they need to get more exercise and get in better shape but have trouble putting those good intentions into action. So think of the test as a good first step and a fun way to get moving.
The actual test is fairly comprehensive and measures you in two categories:
The first is performance-related fitness. It includes athletic performance like timing a 50-yard dash and also includes agility tests linked to speed, reaction time and coordination.
The second is health-related fitness. The components of this section are tied to overall good health and things that may lower your risk for problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, muscular pain and injury.
The PCPFS test is broken down into four areas with measures for:
· Aerobic fitness
· Muscular strength and endurance
· Body composition
Are You Healthy Enough For Testing?
Before you break out your high tops, the council has some guidelines and a basic questionnaire to determine if you're healthy enough to participate (basically to avoid lawsuits). It's a brief survey requiring yes or no answers, but to get a more complete picture of your health, use the test as an excuse to get a thorough checkup. Your kids have already been cleared since most states require students to have a complete physical and to get their immunizations updated before returning to school. That scheduled event helps parents stay on top of their child's health. Adults, on the other hand, don't have a built-in reminder, so try coordinating your kid's visit to the doctor with one of your own.
Once you've self-assessed with the questionnaire and get the go ahead that the test won't kill you (just embarrass you), you can review the requirements.
· Timed 1-mile walk and 1.5-mile run including heart rate
· Timed half sit-ups and push-ups
· Sit and reach
· Body mass index (BMI)
When you're ready to start, the easiest way is to download the booklet, and it walks you step by step through each phase of the test. It also suggests that you do it with a buddy, since humiliation and misery love company. Plus, you'll have a workout partner for later.
After you've completed the exercises and lied to friends about the results, go back to the Web site and input your data. It will give you an evaluation to serve as a measure and starting point to track your progress in each area as you become more physically active. In addition to a score, the site also gives helpful feedback and follows up with concrete instructions and exercises to help you improve your numbers.
If you stick with the recommended program and follow the guidelines, by Thanksgiving you'll be ready to run in a Turkey Trot and have enough energy for a post-feast game of touch football.
Alicia Villarosa has enjoyed a long career in health and fitness teaching classes and personal training for 25 years. She's recently launched a blog called Bargain Biatch on living lux for less.