The Second Half of Life Playbook: Assess Your Condition

Michael Rutherford


Kansas City, Kansas, United States

Olympic Weightlifting, CrossFit, Strength and Conditioning


"The journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step." - Forrest Gump


With the right lifestyle modifications we can slow the aging process regardless of our current status. No matter what your condition, an understanding of your physical strengths and your weakness is important to your success. This understanding can only be gained by assessing your current status. This is you versus yourself.



Ideally, your assessments will include: laboratory results, anthropometric measures, a movement screen, a measure of strength, and cardiovascular power. Tech savvy individuals will consider the Polar Beat App fitness test (in-app $2.00 charge) and/or a heart rate variability (HRV) assessment.


Be aware, I am going to talk about direct medical and fringe medical issues here. I am not a doctor, however, I am going to direct you to undertake some physical fitness assessments. If you follow all, or some parts, of this it is 100% at your discretion—now, on with the show.


Build Your Wellness Map

Not so many years ago, if I was headed out on our nation's highways and interstates I would visit my local AAA office and obtain a road map. The map would have detailed information regarding mileage between food, fuel, and overnight options along the way. The map was not a luxury item, in my opinion, it was a critical piece of information that saved time and resources.

These days, with the advent of the smartphone, we now turn on our maps app and have instant information on routes, fuel stops (including price per gallon), accommodations, and potential construction hazards.


In our quest to optimize our journey in the second half of our lives, we still need a roadmap of sorts. This type of roadmap is the knowledge of our current health and fitness. This permits us to make appropriate decisions so we can adjust our lifestyle practice.


Step 1: Laboratory Work

I joked one winter as I saw a long line of cars at the carwash that most vehicle owners probably care more about the dirt and salt rock on their car than they do about their lab work. I want you to think of lab work as looking under the hood of your automobile. While you might not see physiological changes, your blood can reveal important information about your baseline health and fitness.


Most contemporary physicians will honor your request to order specific lab work or you may want to consider any number of online lab services. Three labs that have provided good service historically are Private MD Labs, Life Extension, and Wellness FX. I personally use Wellness FX and have found their work to be consistent and their service to be excellent. They also offer consultants to assist with interpreting the results.


Whatever route you select, seek to include results of the following areas whenever possible:



  • Cardiovascular system
  • Metabolic system
  • Liver function
  • Kidney function
  • Electrolyte levels
  • Bone health
  • Reproductive hormones
  • Vitamin and mineral levels


If you do decide to go the DIY independant lab route, correct interpretation of your results is critical, so please seek a general practitioner for assistance with your results.


Step 2: Anthropometric Measurements

Basically, measure your body. Take measurements of your waist, hips, thighs, chest, and upper arms. It’s easy and handy to use a "smart" bathroom scale. These units will not only provide a measure of your mass, but will also provide a percentage of body fat reading via impedance. While "weight" is not a terrific metric, long term trends can be established and provide some insight on undesirable habits that keep us from progressing.


Step 3: Movement Screen

An overhead squat with a broom handle or PVC pipe will reveal to you all the parts of your body that need additional attention. Below is a photo of the standard you need to try to achieve. Try to fit into the bottom position mirroring this standard. If you have trouble meeting this standard, use the following list to target problem areas.



  • Toes out: tight calves
  • Valgus knees (knees collapse in): tight adductors/weak glute medius
  • Knees out: tight adductors/weaker adductors
  • Forward lean: tight hip flexors/calves/chest
  • Rounded back: tight hamstrings/adductors
  • Asymmetrical shift: tight adductors/poroformis on the side that buckles



The Second Half of Life Playbook: Assess Your Condition - Fitness, deadlift, squatting, FMS, masters athletes, physical fitness test, cardiovascular fitness, older athletes, general fitness, fitness technology


If you know of a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) practitioner and prefer a different set of eyes, please feel free to work with them.


Step 4: Strength Evaluation

We are approaching the Second Half Playbook as an N of 1 clinical trial. We care little (at least initially) how we compare with a random sampling of individuals. We care only about where we are and where we are going.


If you don’t have access to a barbell and some weight plates, you might need to find a friend who does or get a pass at a legitimate gym. Strength is the ability to exert a force. Our strength assessment is the barbell deadlift. In everyday life, if you cannot pick up stuff, your independence long-term is diminished. Not skilled in the deadlift? Not a problem. Look for a hexbar (squat bar, trap bar) because it will make for an easy set up for deadlifting.


Still not ready? Skip this assessment and practice with a coach or make a future appointment with a professional to test your strength with the deadlift.



If the barbell does not appeal to you, then go with this next assessment instead. These are more a measure of strength-endurance, so they are time tested. Be very strict with your standard for re-testing purposes.


One minute of each exercise for max reps:


  • Push ups
  • Sit ups
  • Strict pull ups


Step 5: Cardio Assessment

Our final assessment is a measurement of cardiovascular power, also known as VO2 max. VO2 max is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense, or maximal, exercise. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight. It is one factor that may help determine an athlete's capacity to perform sustained exercise.


There are two ways to assess V02 max. The Dr. Ken Cooper's 12 minute run test or the 4:00 O’Neil row test.


These are known as “field tests” because the performance (distance or time) is used to indirectly determine the person's maximum oxygen consumption. It is important to standardize this test as much as possible—this includes, but is not limited to: the day and the time of day, movement execution standards, and readiness (rest and nutrition).


Equip Yourself

By using these assessments to determine where you currently stand, you will be better equipped to identify areas that may need to be strengthened, stretched, or mobilized. As we age, knowing what our bodies are capable of, and making improvements where we can, will only serve to keep us healthy and strong into future years.


Continue by reading The Pillars Of The Second Half Of Life.

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