You’re working out and seeing improvement. So why should you have a fitness test, when what you’re doing is working well?
Because by concentrating on certain areas you could be doing a lot better. Even though of all the factors that affect your athletic performance — the amount of training performed, the body’s adaptation to the training, motivation level, nutritional status and weather conditions, to name a few — the physiological variables themselves are limited, fitness testing can measure and help improve them.
Australian exercise physiologist Rob Wood of Western Australia University has identified five specific areas that fitness testing can benefit athletes:
- As Wood says, “competition is the ultimate test of performance capability,” and therefore the best indication of training success. However, maximizing performance begins with identifying athletic ability in individual aspects of performance. “Fitness testing attempts to measure individual components of performance,” Wood explains, “with the ultimate aim of studying and maximizing the athlete’s ability in each component.”
- Fitness testing allows athletes to establish their strengths and weaknesses of the athlete. This is done by comparing test results to other athletes in the same training group, the same sport, or a similar population group. Previous test results of large groups are often published as normative tables. Comparisons are not to be followed slavishly, but are to be consulted to modify your training program to use workout time more efficiently.
- Athletes who fitness test can monitor their progress much easier. Future testing can be compared to a benchmark, and changes can be noted. “A baseline is especially important if you are about to embark on a new training phase,” Wood advises. By repeating tests at regular intervals, you can get an idea of the effectiveness of the training program. Consult your professional trainer to set up your own testing schedule, but the testing period can range from two weeks to six months, as it usually takes a minimum of 2-6 weeks to see a demonstrable fitness change.
- Properly done, fitness testing creates incentive by setting performance goals. Knowing you will be tested at a certain date gives you a solid target to shoot at, and improve in your chosen area.
- Testing aids greatly in talent identification. “A general non-sport specific testing battery can provide you with an idea of your basic strengths and weaknesses, and from this you may find you would be better suited to another sport which makes better use of your strengths,” Wood explains, then cautions that “testing…has generally not been very reliable in predicting the future success of juniors — mainly due to varying growth patterns.