Personal trainers are on a mission to assist clients on the road to fitness. Whether our clients are beginners, perhaps wanting to lose weight before a big event, elite athletes working toward optimal performance, or looking to be more active, improving fitness (or becoming fit) is a goal. What do we really even mean by “fitness” ? And how do you know once your client has achieved it?

Measuring Fitness

As we delve into the defining what being fit means, we also must find ways to measure fitness levels to know if it has been reached. There are definite signs to look for and some less obvious ways.

Looking Good?

“Fitness—if it came in a bottle everybody would have a great body,”–a quote by Cher that comes to mind. No doubt bottling fitness would be a huge seller. But since that isn’t possible, we must work to achieve it.

A great body might be the result of fitness. Is having a great body the result of being fit? It can be, but some fortunate people achieve this without working out. Genetics has a lot to do with someone’s shape and their ability to develop muscle, distribute fat proportionately, and even excel at certain activities.

 You see the defined abs, the muscle tone and you know that’s a person who exercises…someone who is fit. Probably. Plus, a “great body” is also a subjective term. What looks great to one person may not be the same to another. Some people find overtly muscled athletes repulsive while others see them as the epitome of perfection. Nevertheless, fitness goes beyond outward appearances.

Categories of Fitness

Merriam Webster defines fitness as a noun meaning “the quality or state of being fit.” That leaves a big gray area to define.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) rounds out fitness into four categories:

  • endurance
  • strength
  • balance
  • flexibility

Each of these categories is important to incorporate into a training program. Now that we have the categories and we need the measurement tools.

Measuring Fitness

Passing and/or exceeding assessments are tangible ways to measure how fit someone has become. There are several tools personal trainers have at their disposal, and for which they should be trained to utilize, to measure fitness levels. Here are a few:

If you track your clients progress and re-assess frequently, you will be able to chart their ability to lift heavier weight, improved running speed and distance, even improved mobility and joint flexbility. These are measureable, objective ways to gauge fitness. By assessing clients at the beginning of training and at determined intervals throughout the program, we can see when there is improvement and progress.

Being physically able to do more and do it with greater ease exemplifies “fitness”.
Somewhat harder to measure but still progressive signs include: Feeling more limber, holding balance poses without or with less difficulty, recovering from muscle soreness more quickly, having a stronger immune system, and having increased energy. Daily activities are easier; carrying groceries is a breeze; climbing stairs is a cakewalk.


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Being able to take a challenging exercise class is certainly one sign of being fit.
“A great warm-up is all I need to motivate me. I can be tired and not in the mood to work out but after an awesome warm-up I’m ready to perform,” said Amy Prasol, a group exercise instructor. “Music is the key to my fitness success.” As for others, “I know someone is fit when they can take my classes.”

Feeling physically fit. Sometimes it’s just a personal, gut feeling. You know deep down inside once you’ve mastered your goals and feel good.

Although achieving a notable degree of fitness is a starting goal for many of our clients, it is most certainly not the end of an endeavor once it is achieved. One does not stop once it has been attained. There is no finish line in this race. It’s an ongoing practice—a lifestyle

To maintain a certain fitness level or to raise levels, many gym rats and fit pros adhere to their own guidelines. These might include:

• Maintaining a very consistent exercise regimen
• Hiring a personal trainer periodically to reevaluate
• Trying new and challenging exercise classes
• Increasing running distance and speed
• Increasing exercise intensity
• Mastering a new piece of cardio equipment or skill
• Setting aside a specific time each day devoted to exercise

Whatever it is, clients must find what works for their desires, their lifestyle, and peripheral goals in order to define and achieve “fitness”. What does being fit mean to you? And are you there yet?


Kim Becknell Williams

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.