5 min read

How to Know If You Had a Good Workout

by | Mindset, Training

A  simple Google search will tell you that you had a good workout if:

 

  •   You couldn’t hold a conversation.
  •   You could barely finish your last rep.
  •   Your muscles swelled (stupid way of saying you got a pump).
  •   You were “jazzed” mentally.
  •   You feel stronger immediately.
  •   You recover from intense intervals quickly.
  •   You felt challenged in new ways.
  •   Good night’s sleep.
  •   Elevated Heart Rate.
  •   You feel sore the next day.
  •   Hunger.

To be blunt, all of these answers suck—like, really bad.

It’s important to understand that there aren’t any workouts that are inherently good or bad; it’s all contextual.

The quality of your workout exists on a continuum from less effective to more effective.

So instead of judging your workouts as good or bad, try making sure they’re as effective as possible.

If you’re remotely similar to anyone I’ve ever met, your main goal is to lose fat, build muscle, or gain strength.

Your goal isn’t to be hungry.

Your goal isn’t to get your body to hurt.

Your goal isn’t to get better sleep.

Your goal isn’t to be unable to hold a conversation (unless you’re drinking at a family party).

And I know your goal isn’t to feel “jazzed” mentally.

Sure, these all may be byproducts of working out. After a workout, you may feel hungry. You might get better sleep. You might feel “jazzed.” Maybe you’re worse at conversing than normal, too.

You know what else has these effects on people? Getting stoned.

That doesn’t disprove anything, I just think it’s funny.

My point is, you can fit all the criteria listed above, but if you’re not moving closer to your goals, you’re clearly not having effective workouts.

My secondary point is—from my observation—you don’t have to have any knowledge on a subject to write freelance articles for some websites.

Back to the main point…

You may feel “good” after your workouts, but that’s simply your post-exercise endorphins.

Endorphins are great and all, but just because you feel good doesn’t mean your workouts are effective.

One workout doesn’t build muscle just like eating one salad doesn’t make you skinny.

Truly, the only way to tell if a workout is effective—or ineffective—is to look at how it fits into your program as a whole.

It’s similar to nutrition in a sense. If I showed you one meal I ate and asked if that was a good meal… how would you answer?

It depends on what else I’m eating throughout the day. What are my calorie/macro targets? Have I been making progress from hitting those targets? How long have I been consistent?

You can’t tell me my diet sucks because I had a slice of pizza just like I can’t tell you your workout sucked because you only did cardio today.

Until you have more insight, you can’t say whether a meal is good or bad—same with your workouts.

To tell you if you had an effective workout, you need to have a broader understanding of your workload throughout the week.

You don’t have to be drenched in sweat each time you leave the gym.

Being sore does not mean you’re losing fat or building muscle. Soreness is simply a byproduct of providing your muscles with an unfamiliar stimulus.

You don’t need to be starving after every workout.

You just need to know your inching towards your goals. You can do this by giving yourself a checklist, or asking yourself a series of questions to make sure you’re paying attention to the main drivers of progress.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself:

What is your total volume at for each body part? Have you been adding volume consistently? Are you getting closer to your goals? Have you been giving full effort in every session on a regular basis?

Unless you have 30-60 days of data, it’s difficult to say whether your workouts are effective.

Progress is not made from workout-to-workout; it’s made month-to-month, sometimes slower.

Track all of your workouts, keep note of how you feel before, during, and after each training session, and assess from month to month.

It may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t take much more than 30 minutes per week.

Maybe you don’t have the time to do this; that’s why I have a job.

I measure and manage all of these variables for my clients so they can make progress without letting fitness control their life.

Normally, this is where you’re supposed to pitch your coaching or something… I’m not sure.

Instead, I’m going to give you a book full of 138 healthy recipes (it includes a meal prep guide, a meal planner, and a beginner workout program).

And if you want to ensure your workouts are effective and are bringing you closer to your goals, apply here to see if we’d be a good fit to work together.

Connor Youngman is a personal trainer, fitness writer, podcaster, and competitive coffee chugger. He has a deep love for the Chicago Bears, Stoic Philosophy, Harry Potter, and writing about himself in the third person.