Project Louise: Flunking The Fitness Test And Getting Down To Work

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

It’s still a bit early to declare that I’m getting into a groove, but … well, I think I can at least see the groove from here.

Project Louise had a busy week: an official “fitness assessment” with my new trainer, Rick DiScipio, followed a couple of days later by my first training session with him; a two-hour meeting with my strategy coach, Allison Rimm, to outline my strategic vision and “set an intention” for the coming year; a “hot yoga” session that my friends Sara and Susan talked me into (spoiler alert: I only thought I was going to die – but you’ll have to wait a week to hear more about that); and, yay me, not one but three separate visits to the gym, complete with aerobic workouts.

Oh, and I bought a swimsuit – part of my stated goal for the week. They sell them right there at my gym, along with goggles and caps. Who knew?

So, let’s start with the fitness assessment. Another spoiler alert: I’m not very fit. Rick, who’s the assistant director of fitness at Boston University’s Fitness and Recreation Center, better known as the FitRec, and director Michael Lagomarsine measured my body fat percentage, which Mike explains is more useful than plain ol' BMI. Yikes: I’m about 35 percent fat. (The desirable range is 21 percent to 30 percent.) So, OK, another goal for the year.

Next they measure my waist and hips, in order to get a ratio of the two; the bigger your waist is in proportion to your hips, the worse it is for your health. (You know the “apple vs. pear” idea? I’m a prize-winning Macintosh.) Ideally, the ratio should be 0.82 or lower. Mine is 0.89.

They also have me do a squat while holding a pole, a way to measure my flexibility and balance. I can’t get down to 90 degrees, and I can’t stop myself from hunching or moving my arms forward as I go down – that’s because of tight muscles and tendons. Score: 1 out of 3.

Then comes a test I’ve always hated: How many pushups can you do in a minute? I manage three, which frankly is two more than I expected. Mike and Rick are kind enough not to mention what I learn from the write-up they send me later: This puts me in the “poor” category for my age.


I’m seeing a trend here, and I don’t care for it. It reminds me, and not in a good way, of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test that I did miserably at every year in grammar school. (I'm thrilled to see from the linked site that it's been discontinued and is now a Fitness Challenge instead.)  I’m also anxious because Rick tells me that he has a background in training elite athletes, as well as in power lifting and martial arts.

I’m worried that I won’t be enough of a jock to measure up. But it becomes clear, both in this first meeting and in our training session on Friday, that he can talk to newbies as well as to pros – and that he manages to be at once challenging and encouraging. If I need to face facts — and I do — it helps to face them with real support.

I mention this because, if you’re thinking about doing a session or two with a personal trainer, it’s important to find someone you like. Qualifications are important too, of course – Rick recommends certification through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, which he has (along with bachelor’s and master’s degrees), or another recognized group – and it helps if the trainer has worked with others like you. (Turns out that Rick has done post-rehab work with older adults and special populations, in addition to that scary athlete stuff. And he gives me a few simple exercises to start with — using a stability ball, a fitness band and some 10-pound weights, so I can even work out at home on busy days.) But it’s just as important, especially for those of us who may have some negative history with gym teachers, coaches, et al. (see fitness test, above), to feel comfortable and at ease with the trainer we choose.


As it happens, that sense of ease, of being encouraged and accepted, dovetails nicely with the “intention” that Allison and I set after a long talk about what I want my life to be and what I need to change in order to get it there. This discussion included everything from my home life and friendships to my work life and professional goals, but the statement of intent that we chose was remarkably simple: to trust, love and respect myself. I’ll be thinking – and no doubt writing – much more about how that connects with all the more pragmatic aspects of this project; for now I’ll just say, trust me – it does.

In order to trust myself, of course, I have to be true to my word. So this morning I warmed up on the treadmill and muddled through the strength training workout that Rick had walked me through on Friday. And then I went downstairs, adjusted my goggles, and went for a swim.

Readers, are you making progress toward your own fitness goals? What helps or hinders you? If you could meet with a personal trainer, what would you ask?


Headshot of Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy Contributor
Louise Kennedy previously worked with The ARTery and as editor of Edify.



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