What Makes A Good Workout?

I’ll start by answering that question with another question- what is your goal?

That is my answer for several questions that I get asked on a frequent basis. To me it seems like that would be a logical response, but often I’m met with a look of confusion.

As a trainer I would define a “good workout” as one that left you feeling better then when you started, one that helped you get one step closer to your goals, and one that pushed you out of your comfort zone without making you it’s bitch. Let’s break that down shall we?

“A workout that leaves you feeling better then when you started”
This doesn’t mean that you weren’t challenged or pushed. What it does mean is that when you finished you had a sense of accomplishment and were able to walk out of the gym being happy you showed up.
Movement should be making you feel better, not worse. Discomfort is part of the deal, especially for newbies. PAIN is not, and it shouldn’t be celebrated.

“A workout that helps you get one step closer to your goals.”
Those (your goals) should be clearly defined from the get-go. Are you working out to lose body fat? To build more muscle? To run your first 5k or Spartan or Triathalon? Are you returning to exercise after major surgery or childbirth and you’ve just been cleared by your doctor? Do you want to be able to chase your toddler or take your kids on a family hike? Do you want to stave off health issues that have plagued your parents or other members of your family?
Working out doesn’t have to be purely aesthetic. To be honest you’re likely to have more success if that isn’t your only driving factor. But also having a why and setting up goals along the way will also set you up for the long term.. Movement and exercise aren’t just short term solutions. They are lifetime choices that can and will set you up for a better quality of life, or a not-so-good one. That choice is yours to make.
When you show up to wherever you get a little movement in ask yourself- is what I’m doing today going to get me closer to where I want to be? If the answer is “No” then I’d suggest asking yourself why you are doing whatever it is that you are doing in the first place.

“A workout that pushed you out of your comfort zone without making you it’s bitch”.
So this goes hand in hand with the first point, and I mention it again to say that if you feel like you have been through the ringer every single time you go to the gym perhaps you need to do a bit of reflection.
As an athlete I love a hard workout.
As a mom, business owner, trainer and person that needs their body to function in order to make a living I don’t dig them all the time.
As a woman there are times during the month that all I can do is show up and be gentle. If this is the first time you are hearing this, here’s a secret- our bodies are cyclical in nature. We feel that way on purpose, and if you are tuned into it, listening to your body will be the biggest gift you can give yourself.

Resistance training, weightlifting, boot camp, whatever it is you enjoy doing is meant to be challenging. That is what allows progress to happen. Soreness is part of the game as well. When muscles are worked in ways that they aren’t used to, they become sore as a result. But if you finish your workout and have zero energy to take on the rest of your day, or if you are so sore when you’re done that moving through your normal day-to-day is a challenge, I’d encourage you to ask yourself WHY you’re doing it. What are you gaining by feeling that way all the time? If that is the only measure you have to feel like your workout was successful, I’d encourage you to really give that some thought. If you are surrounded by people that think the same way, I ask you what other positive attributes are they contributing to your health and wellness?
I used to wear this mentality as a badge of honor, I thought I wasn’t doing nearly enough if I wasn’t miserable until my next workout. That was all fine and good, until it wasn’t. Until injuries overtook soreness. Until my ability to be a mom became more challenging because I couldn’t move. Until my body loudly stated that it had “ENOUGH”.

Listening to our bodies can be a humbling experience. For many of us we were conditioned from a fairly young age to just get after it, no matter what. What if instead we gave ourselves the grace and courage to instead do things that make us feel good and also help us to move better and live better in the long run? Engaging in workouts that help us as opposed to hurt us is one way to do that.

Ask yourself next time you’re ready to hit the gym- is this workout going to make me better or not? Then proceed accordingly.

~S