Yesterday I had a fitness assessment and was a little disappointed by the results. The more I think about the whole process, the more I wonder how much value it really has. Trainers love to do fitness assessments, and I know that at a lot of gyms, they do this when you start to help you measure your progress. I also think that gyms tend to use this as a selling point to make sure you realize how important it is for you to be at the gym. In my case, I asked for this assessment because a friend of mine had raved about how helpful it was for her. In my case, though, I wish I hadn't wasted the $60 session (though I had a package discount so it didn't cost quite that much) on something I could have done myself with a body fat scale, a heart rate monitor, and some simple home tests. I might have spent more initially on the monitor and the scale, but I'd have them for future use. I could also track my progress on my own and save the embarassment of having someone else pinching my fat.
I think a more appropriate time for a body fat assessment and some of these other tests would be when you were at a plateau near your goal and feeling stuck. A body fat test might show that you are actually where you need to be, or give you the extra motivation to keep pushing. The fitness tests might make you see how much you've already accomplished.
I think that now that we have so many fitness gadgets and tests, it's easy to get seduced by the numbers and think they're more important than they are. In the 70s, when the running boom started, a digital watch was an expensive luxury. Now we can have calorie counters, GPS devices, heart rate monitors, etc., etc. I have run with and without a heart rate monitor and find that I have a pretty good feel for when I need to speed up and slow down without the help of the digital nanny.
I'm meeting with the trainer on Friday to get a weight-training workout that I can do on my own. I think despite all of my griping this experience has helped push me out of my rut a little and given me a little more motivation to push myself. I'm going to get out and run in a few minutes with just my trusty watch (well, and my clothes, of course). The weather's nice so I'll even leave the iPod at home today.