For some, working out can just be about turning up, moving around until you’re out of breath, then having a hot shower and feeling pleased-as-punch.
But how do you know if your workouts are having the effect you want? How can we tell if our workouts are, well… working?
Sure, we can wait for a few weeks and hope that we see some results.
But who wants to wait?
This is 2020. We’re all about now, right?
The good news for everyone who is as impatient as I am is that there a few simple signs that can tell us if we’ve had a good workout.
Spoiler: the answer is not ‘if we feel exhausted afterwards‘.
Did you know: a good quality workout doesn’t have to be long?
And it doesn’t have to result in you being so out of breath that you feel like you’ll never recover.
Ultimately, the symptoms of a good workout will depend on our goals for the workout.
Myth Buster: Feeling sore isn’t a sign we’ve had a good workout. All it usually shows is that we’ve trained the body in a way it’s not used to.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is felt when we push the body harder than we have for a while. The truth is, we might have just done the most efficient, effective, killer workout and yet have no signs of DOMS at all.
Here are 6 signs that you’ve had a good workout
1. Muscular Exhaustion
Indicator associated with: BUILDING MUSCULAR SIZE, BUILDING MUSCULAR ENDURANCE.
Muscular exhaustion usually is felt after a workout and can be confused with ‘muscle failure’: the point at which our muscles cannot perform any more of a movement. If we are reaching muscle failure during a workout, it’s a sure sign that we are training the muscle well.
Although there are a other factors which come into how efficient the training is.
Generally speaking, if we are reaching muscle failure the body will be triggered into building the size and efficiency of the muscular cells over the next few days.
Reaching this point regularly in our workouts shows we’re putting in effort that will make our muscles grow and/or increase their endurance.
Coming back to muscular exhaustion: this can often be felt after hard workouts, where muscular failure has been reached several times during the workout.
A feeling of weak, wobbly muscles after a workout is a sign that our workout has had a positive effect on the muscle.
Be sure to give the muscle group some rest (48 hours+) as well as hydrating and taking on some quality calories that include protein.
Indicator associated with: ALL FORMS OF EXERCISE
A good workout is generally going to help improve our sleep. This makes sense – I know that I sleep way better if I’ve had a good workout earlier in the day. It’s also been proven in several studies that sleep is improved by good quality exercise.
Indicator associated with: ALL FORMS OF EXERCISE
Feelings of high energy or low energy can both come about as a result of exercise, and either can be a sign of a good workout.
Whilst working out in the long run is a sure-fire way to have more energy in general, when you are first starting out or if you doing a particularly strenuous workout that your body is not used, it can leave you feeling worn out.
However, compared to sitting around the house doing nothing, a workout, no matter the intensity, is going to make you feel more invigorated as it quickly oxygenates the blood and activates muscles throughout the body.
4. Muscle Release
Indicator associated with: STRETCHING, YOGA, PILATES
If your workout goal is to release tense muscles and feel more relaxed, a stretching routine is a good way to achieve this.
You’ll know if your workout has had the desired effect because you should feel like the muscles have loosened in the area you focussed on.
If you’ve overstretched you may feel muscle tightness. This is indicating you’re pushing too hard and if you feel tight after a low intensity exercise session like yoga, next time ease off on how far you push those muscles.
If you’re looking for way to start with some more slow-paced routines such as yoga, you could do worse than this follow along video from YogiApproved.com.
Indicator associated with: INTENSE FORMS OF EXERCISE: HIIT, BUILDING MUSCULAR SIZE, BUILDING MUSCULAR ENDURANCE
All exercise burns calories. But it stands to reason that the more intense the exercise, the more you’ll burn.
Feelings of hunger an hour or so after a workout is a great sign that your body has been working hard. This post-workout period is a good time to eat, as your body will use more calories to cool down and repair muscle (rather than storing as many calories as fat).
Top tip: This is the point where you can make or break your muscular gains or fat losses. When you burn calories, you eventually enter a calorie deficit. This is the holy grail for those wishing to loose weight, so don’t feed your hunger with donuts and fries.
At the same time, it’s important to also bear in mind that feeling hungry all the time is not a great approach to weight loss. It’s better to consume small portions of good quality calories and pair this with an effective exercise program.
If you’re looking to build muscle, ensure you’re consuming a good portion of protein in the first 60 minutes after a workout. Your body needs protein to regenerate the cells inside the muscles you’ve just worked.
6. Heart Rate
Indicator associated with: CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE BUILDING, WEIGHT LOSS
If you’re feeling like you would like to make an investment, a heart rate monitor is one of the best ways to know for sure that your cardio workout is in the most effective zone.
A good heart rate monitor will show your pulse at every moment, so you know when you’re not working hard enough. It’s also a good way to measure progress and ‘gamify’ your workouts – which can really help with motivation.
There you have it. How simple is that! With a little additional knowledge, we can quickly judge whether our workouts are having a good effect on our bodies.
Remember, take things steady, don’t push too hard, but also do try and build on what you did in your last workout.
Whether that be more repetitions, less rest, longer workout period, heavier weight, more advanced movement etc. Continuously improving on previous workouts is they key to progress.