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Fitness Assessment: CARVER Analysis For Your Health and Fitness

CCX Combat conditioning exercises.

Many of you will understand the use of CARVER immediately. After a variety of previous professions from Special Ops, Security Consultant, Technical Writer, and Military Fitness Writer, it is easy to pull from different worlds looking for similarities. When in the business of military or security, you can think of vulnerabilities as opportunities, or weaknesses as easy targets. Fitness is not much different.

Here is the CARVER system for grading such topics: CARVER: Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability.

All of these get a score from 1 to 5 -- the higher score means the better target. This is a system used since World War Two and has worked for generations to aid in decision making and devoting assets to future targets. Now, many private and commercial security assets have used the six-part grading criteria in their own Risk/Vulnerability assessments.

Since this is not a security column, here is a similarly designed system to grade your own fitness and health using the same CARVER acronym with a few word changes and meanings.

C – Capability. What are you capable of doing? One thing you will learn after accomplishing challenging events is that your body is ten times stronger than your brain will let it be. Maybe previous injuries or illness have decreased your activity options, but it does not have to decrease your imagination to find a method of movement. If you cannot do something, it is likely due to you not trying or not trying consistently enough to see results. Often the words, "I can't" get thrown around with regards to that person's fitness and health. This is more of a mental assessment than a physical assessment, as your success with anything is 90 percent mental / 10 percent physical.
(Low capability 1 – higher capability 5)

A – Accessibility. What do you have access to for training? How much time per day do you have to train? Do you have a full gym access with cardio machines, track, pool, free weights and other machines, classes, and gear? Or do you lack all of those? Are you limited to your living room and a set of dumbbells? Maybe a local high school track or park with monkey bars are within walking distance? Do you have a home gym with all the equipment you need requiring no driving to get to the local gym? Finally – do you have a workout partner or group? Having a buddy is very helpful to getting you up before work or placing a time and date on your calendar. For some, if it is not on the calendar, it does not exist. Make a date for yourself! (Low Access 1 – higher access 5)

R – Recoverability. How quickly do you recover from previous workouts? This is basically asking how old you are, because as we age our ability to fully recover from rigorous activity decreases (increases in time). Rest Days, Mobility Days, and Stretching should be actively pursued as your time to recover completely increases. Young and old - we all need the ability to recover. This is a delicate balance of sound training programming to fit your abilities, goals, nutrition, mobility, and sleep. Often, when one is out of balance, it can tip the scales and start reducing your ability to fully recover. (Slow recovery 1 – quicker recovery 5)

V – Vulnerability. We all have weaknesses, so what are yours? These can be from previous injury, a lack of attempting certain activities, or fear of certain environments (water for instance). My recommendation is to have a cycle in the year where you focus on your weakness. Or you can have one day of the week and call it "Weakness Wednesday" if you prefer. This could be the day where you take a yoga class because you lack flexibility and mobility. It could be the day you take swim lessons and learn how to swim. It could be the day you add weights to your cardio or body weight routine because you lack upper body strength. Pick a weakness and give it proper attention. Next thing you know, that your weakness will be much more tolerable and maybe even a new strength. (Low weaknesses 1 – higher weaknesses 5)

E - Energy Level. How is your energy level throughout the day? All day? Do you notice dips and spikes? Like a car, your body runs on fuel. The amount of good fuel you place in your body, the more energy you will have. This does not mean overdose on caffeine, though some is absolutely fine each day. This is natural food energy from good proteins like lean meats, eggs, beans; carbs from fruits and vegetables; and fats from nuts, olives, and fish, for instance. Also, the amount of rest and sleep you get daily is critical to your energy levels the next day. A way of looking at eating is to think about recovery from your previous workout, but also the energy required for your workout the following day. (Low energy 1 – higher energy 5)

R – Recognizable. Do you recognize yourself anymore when you look in the mirror? Imagine yourself after six months of following a daily fitness regimen, even if it is walking 20 minutes a day. You will be surprised at what six months will do for your health. There is a saying in the fitness world:
 
Give fitness a week and it will change the way you feel. Give it a month and it will change the way you look. Give it a year and it will change your life.

No kidding – in one year, you will wish you had started today! (Not recognizable 1 – Still hardcore, fit, lean, strong 5)

Be honest with the above grading process and give yourself a number between 1 through 5. Remember, 1 is the lowest score per category and it would correspond with you not being good at that particular section. Five (5) is the highest score possible and reflects that you are better in that category. Anywhere in between would yield a 2, 3, or 4 score.

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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