advice · fitness

SOAP note on active women: outlook is promising

This week I learned a new acronym and phrase: SOAP note. Any readers who work in healthcare already know this term. It’s a method that health care providers use to write notes on a patient’s medical record. SOAP stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan. Roughly it involves getting a description from the patient about their current condition, noting the results of observation, testing and physical examination of the patient, offering some suggestions about diagnosis and possible causes of current problem, and finally a plan for treatment. Sounds like a reasonable system to me.

A friend of mine, who was headed out this weekend for a sea kayaking instructional workshop, was asked to write something about their “paddling philosophy”. Presumably the workshop leaders had something more in mind than “keep the cockpit mostly water-free and don’t lose the paddle”. My friend was temporarily flummoxed by this assignment, but then they remembered the SOAP note: why not do a self-assessment on their paddling?

I herewith present you: a paddling SOAP note, courtesy of my friend.


  • 38 y/o F presents today for evaluation of paddling philosophy
  • She states she has been paddling for 4 years and would like to have the skills to go “anywhere reasonable” safely in a sea kayak and to paddle class 3 whitewater
  • Self-identified strengths include comfort in rough water, endurance, organization
  • Self-identified weaknesses include reading waves/timing, rolling, navigating complex group dynamics


  • Head – useful for decision making
  • Eyes – used for enjoying the scenery, situational awareness, and looking where the boat should go
  • Ears – listening to others for input and attention to their needs
  • Lungs – for talking LOUD on the water so others can hear
  • Heart – endurance to paddle all day
  • MSK – can paddle steadily at 3 knots and handle boat in moderate water conditions
  • Neuro – coordination for a pond roll 90%, combat roll 30%
  • Psych – gets anxious when in leadership/decision making roles or feeling judged


  • Sea kayaker, intermediate, NOS
  • White water kayaker, novice, initial encounter


  • Continue to push self in organization / leadership / planning skills
  • Be intentional about paddling choices – group, route, conditions 
  • Fix lazy back deck roll
  • Seek out more whitewater specific instruction/coaching
  • Be safe
  • Have fun

I love how this lays out a profile of someone’s perceived strengths and weaknesses and offers ways to optimize on them, in this case by being safe and having fun.

Inspired by my friend’s SOAP note, I decided to do one on myself for cycling.


  • 57 y/o F presents today for evaluation of cycling philosophy
  • She states she has been cycling for 15 years (most recently) and would like to have the fitness and fortitude and nerve to go places near and far comfortably on a bike, for errands, day rides and longer extended bike touring
  • Self-identified strengths include strong social support, way more gear than one human could possibly use, a life with time and resources, and overall good health
  • Self-identified weaknesses include fear and anxiety about stamina and perceived fitness deficits; a host of injuries in distant and recent past; inconsistent cycling habits as a result of some of those fears and anxieties; feelings of shame about fitness level


  • Head – useful for developing and responding to reasons in favor of cycling on many occasions; is of standard size/shape for bike helmet to fit
  • Eyes – used to scan environment, most notably for other cool bikes on the road, plus interesting plants, flowers, farm stands on country rides
  • Ears – listens to hum of tires on pavement; mostly hears wind whistling through helmet instead of voices of other riders
  • Lungs – for talking LOUD at any time, any place; superior capabilities, in top decile
  • Heart – needs strengthening to endure long rides, long training periods, and long plateaus; has capacity for swelling with pride and love of the activity of cycling
  • MSK – can pedal steadily with minimal wobble; legs strong; core needs work to support neck and shoulders, which are relatively securely attached
  • Neuro – coordination for rapid moves in traffic, stopping on a dime at country farm stand for cider doughnuts
  • Psych – gets anxious when feeling judged, which is always by self, never by others


  • Cyclist: intermediate, veteran, road warrior
  • Human: advanced, experienced; needs update of habits and refueling of self-esteem


  • Continue to throw leg over top tube and pedal as often as possible
  • Be intentional about finding cycling opportunities, big and small
  • Fix bikes when needed; self needs no fixing– is fine as is
  • Seek out more social opportunities to ride with friends anywhere
  • Be safe on the road and remind self that emotions are normal
  • Have fun
  • Find hills to ride down fast– this is why we ride our bikes!

So readers– what would your SOAP note say about you? Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

3 thoughts on “SOAP note on active women: outlook is promising

  1. This seems like a fascinating idea. I’m inclined to try one but think I’ll try it on a broader scale. That is, not just for one sport/activity but a general fitness one which I’m hoping will motivate me by providing some objective feedback to myself. It’s all too easy (for me) to think about what I can’t accomplish rather than what I can possibly accomplish. One question though: both of them mention MSK. I’ve no idea what that means.

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