We were both products of the fitness boom of the 80s -- a time when running, biking, cross-country skiing and triathlons were more a way of life than something you did for fun.
Through the years, weve gotten soft on that side of the paper, but I still enjoy working on this annual tribute to fitness issue each January. Its a reminder to reinvent ourselves each year.
A lot of you apparently feel the same way. Ive been going to the same gym since 91 and every January since then, the place has been packed with the newcomers.
But each year, the converts gradually taper off and the gym empties as the months go by. I once heard that the average newcomer to a fitness program lasts about 11 weeks before he or she caves in, but one of our local trainers thinks it might be more like six.
But think of this as you shape up for the coming year: most Americans who had money in the stock market lost 40 percent or more of their investment over the past few months, wiping out 10 years of earnings. And if you own a home, youve seen its value plunge, with an iffy notion of when housing prices will rise again, if ever.
But if you invested each day in your own personal health and fitness through the years, then chances are your investment is still strong. Your body, mind, relationships and the way you look at the world -- all of these are tied to the simple blood, brain and muscle chemistry of getting in a good work-out every day.
Want to be optimistic in 2009? Then plan on pumping your body full of endorphins, the pain-fighting, anxiety-relieving byproducts of exerise. Take a hike, literally; youll feel better.
How fit are you? Take the President‘s Challenge
So, how fit are you? Do you really want to know? You can find out online in a matter of seconds by taking the Presidents Challenge Adult Fitness Test.
Just plug in the number of push-ups and sit-ups you can perform along with other data on aerobics, flexibility and weight, and hit the online button: Bingo -- the test shows how you compare with your fellow Americans.
The test is available at www.adultfitnesstest.org. It asks the following questions:
How long does it take you to complete a one-mile walk?
What is your heart rate after completing the walk?
What is your weight?
For runners: how long does it take you to run 1.5 miles?
How many half sit-ups (crunches) can you do in one minute?
How many push-ups in one minute?
How far can you sit and reach when touching your toes?
What is your height, weight and waist measurement?
Once you complete the test, an online calculator rates your level of fitness.
If you are a 40-year-old woman and can run a 10-minute mile (completing a 1.5-mile run in 15 minutes), then you are in the 65th percentile of women your age. This means that while you are above average, 35 percent of all women your age are in better shape aerobically.
The test is age and gender-specific. For instance, if you are a 55-year-old man and can do 25 push-ups in a minute, that means you are in the 80th percentile of your age group. But if you are a 25-year-old man and perform 25 push-ups, then you are in only the 25th percentile for your peer group.
The cruelest results on the Presidents Challenge tend to come in the body composition category, where most Americans are judged to be overweight.
In my case, with a height of 6-1, a weight of 200 lbs., and a 34-inch waist, the results were judged: Overweight -- increased risk of disease.
The Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sports was established in 1953 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to determine the fitness of the nation, especially that of Americas children.
In 1957 a nationwide study of 8,500 boys and girls ages 5-12 was completed, resulting in the creation of the Presidents Challenge fitness assessment.
The program had its heyday from 1961-63 during President John F. Kennedys administration. President Kennedy and his brother Robert challenged Americans to complete the same 50-mile hike that is required of U.S. Marine officers. The Kennedys completed their walk through snow and slush wearing dress shoes.
The program got another boost from 1989-93 under President George H. Bush when Arnold Schwarzenegger served as chairman. The actor and former bodybuilder visited all 50 states to advocate daily workouts for every American.
Last May, the Presidents Challenge was expanded to cover adults over the age of 18, as well as children. The online test was established to allow every American to rate his or her level of fitness. All you need is a stopwatch for the timed portions of the test and a yardstick to measure flexibility.
Check it out -- you may surprise yourself: www.adultfitnesstest.org.