Physical assessments are a critical starting point for your fitness program. Using your initial results to determine the areas you need to focus on and the areas in which you are already doing well and do not need as much attention will really help you stay focused and on track with your programs. In addition to this, baseline data allow you to track your progress to determine whether your training program is helping. Without baseline data, you are basically running blind and cannot know whether you are getting the results you want.

Identifying Your Goals

As with any kind of planning, the question: What do you want? should come before anything else. What you want is the source of your training goals, which should drive every training decision you make. This will ensure that you progress at an appropriate pace. As you begin, take the time to set some goals so you will be sure to get what you want out of the time you spend training. Having concrete fitness assessment information will help you set specific goals. From my experience, the best training goals have the following qualities:

• Clearly understood and specific. For example, if you are 30 years old and scored only 25 on the sit-up test, you can establish a performance goal of achieving a higher number, or performing in a better category.

• Believable and realistic. 

For example, if you are 39 years old and have a body fat percentage of 31 percent, it would be unrealistic and unhealthy to set a goal of decreasing your body fat to 21 percent in four weeks. This goal is not only unrealistic, but also unhealthy. A more appropriate goal could be that percentage achieved in a longer time frame, more like 9 to 12 months of intensive, dedicated training.

• Time based, or within a specific time frame. A four-week time frame for achieving a 10 percent reduction in body fat is not based in reality. A more appropriate time frame would take into consideration your ability to exercise as frequently as daily, as well as to significantly change your diet.

• Measurable using fitness assessments. 

Appropriate goals address things that can be measured. A goal to increase the number of push-ups you can do in one minute can be evaluated by retesting after six weeks to see if you have improved.Be sure to write your goals down, and ensure that they meet all of the preceding requirements. For instance, you can improve a vague goal such as wanting to be more fit by focusing on an aspect of fitness (becoming better at aerobic activities, having stronger legs, being more flexible) and transform your vague goal into something concrete and measurable.