There’s lots of reasons we workout, but generally it has something to do with reasons like becoming healthier, stronger, fitter, more mobile etc, and with that comes the question of what’s a good (or the best) workout and consequently, how to measure if it’s a good workout.
My idea of a ‘good’ workout has changed over the years.
I got to thinking about this recently when a client shared that her partner was laid up in bed, exhausted from his personal training session, and that he probably won’t be able to move for several days – the result of a very tough workout after 3 weeks off with a flu, on top of shift work.
I remember when I used to think that the sign of a good workout was when all the muscles hurt so much afterwards it was hard to move and all you can do is sleep. My ideas have shifted since then, but for some people, I’m sure this still their measure of a good workout. And that’s OK, we all have different goals, value different experiences, and have different expectations.
So these days a good workout, for me, connects body to mind and addresses my needs for the day and that can change day to day. It considers how I’m feeling at that time (and that’s determined by several things – sleep, hydration, nutrition, stress, energy, how much movement I’ve had in the days before, and how my body is feeling), and generally has the aim of leaving me feeling better than when I started. A good workout will likely address any niggles that I’m feeling at the time, work towards improving movement quality, and on those days when I’m feeling good, challenge the body to be stronger in every angle.
A good workout doesn’t have to involve high volumes or repetition, excessive sweatiness, or getting into the ‘calorie-burning zone’ (especially if you’ve been trying to calorie burn for ages and it doesn’t seem to be working – then maybe its not, and you actually need a different approach). It doesn’t have to always yield a personal best score of any kind (whether that’s an amount you lift or a time to beat) and it doesn’t always have to leave you dead on the floor for someone else to scrape you up.
Depending on your health goals, most of them can be achieved safely over time, it doesn’t have to be dramatic and its probably better if it’s not, so you’re more likely to repeat it. Those days of suffering for your health, and those inspirational memes that tell you ‘Unless you puke, faint or die, keep going’ (thank you for that quote, Jillian Michaels) should be long gone.
A good workout may look more like progress over time and result in more energy, improved mood or sleep and reduced sugar cravings.
What does a good workout look like to you?