9 Ways to Measure Your Fitness

LOWER-BODY STRENGTH

The repetitive motion of running, in which you're using the same muscles in the same way over and over again, can strengthen some muscles more than others. "An imbalance between opposing muscle groups, such as your quadriceps and hamstrings, can lead to muscle pulls and knee pain," Holland says. "Strength training can balance out the lower body and prevent those types of injuries."

IMPROVE IT

Walking Lunges

Holding dumbbells, step forward with your right leg and lower into a lunge. Return to standing as you step forward with your left leg and repeat. Continue "walking" for eight to 10 steps. Do three sets, resting 60 seconds in between.

TEST IT

Squat Test

Squat down until your glutes graze the seat of a chair. Return to standing. Repeat as many times as possible, maintaining perfect form (knees behind toes).

SCORE IT

Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+

Great >43 >39 >33 >27

>49 >45 >41 >35

Good 25-42 21-38 15-32 10-26

31-48 29-44 23-40 18-34

Fair 0-24 0-20 0-14 0-9

0-30 0-28 0-22 0-17


FLEXIBILITY

A flexible body is worth striving for—it's more efficient, sees more gains in strength and endurance, enjoys more range of motion, and recovers more quickly. When your muscles are long and pliable, blood flows more freely. This means your muscles, ligaments, and tendons are better nourished and able to rebound faster after you run, says Cathy Morse, a yoga instructor and marathoner in Charleston, South Carolina.

IMPROVE IT

Runner's Stretch

Stand with your glutes against a wall and your feet six to 12 inches from the wall's base. Bend forward and place your palms on the floor or a yoga block or footstool (shown above). To make it harder: Move your feet closer to the wall. Do this stretch postrun. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Do three reps.

Strong roots: Run pain-free with these lower leg stretches.

TEST IT

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose

Bend your left knee, and draw your thigh in. Loop a strap or belt around the arch of your left foot, and hold an end of the strap in each hand. Straighten the leg as much as possible while pressing your heel toward the ceiling (shown at right). Walk your hands up the strap until elbows are straight. Gently bring your leg as close to your head as possible. Note the angle of the leg in respect to your grounded leg.

SCORE IT

Great

Greater than 90 degrees with leg straight

Greater than 45 degrees with leg straight

Good

Greater than 90 degrees with leg slightly bent

Greater than 45 degrees with leg slightly bent

Fair

90 degrees or less

Less than 45 degrees

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