6 ways of knowing if you’ve actually done a good workout

By Jessah Robinson, Adv Dip (Nut Med)

It’s not always as simple as if you sweat or feel sore then you’ve worked hard. Especially if you are someone who is working out with a particular goal or achievement in mind, it’s important to know if you are putting in the right amount of effort. Here are 6 ways of knowing:

1. Your heart rate indicates so

This is probably the most objective way of measuring how effective your cardio workout is. Your target heart rate is between 50 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate, measured in beats per minute (bpm). A simple formula for working out your maximum heart rate is by subtracting your age from 220. Then calculate three quarters of that to know your target. To keep track of your heart rate, consider using a heart rate monitor or investing in a Fitbit tracker which measures heart rate as one of its many features. While heart rate is a great way to measure your cardiovascular fitness, this doesn’t necessarily apply to strength training. It is essential to take proper breaks between weight sets in order to build strength.

2. You immediately feel stronger

Although this is subjective and not objective, it is imperative to monitor your perceived rate of exertion, or in simple terms, how hard you think you’re working. You could use a scale of 1 to 10 when doing this. If you rate yourself as an 8 or a 9 this indicates you are working very hard. Whereas if you honestly think you’re around a 5 or a 6 you could look at mixing things up a bit by looking at new ways to challenge yourself. In saying this, if you have had a really intense workout and are really feeling it, it’s a good idea to follow up with a lower intensity workout the next day. This is essential for muscle recovery, strength and overall enhanced performance.

3. You recover quickly from intense intervals

While most people seem to focus on the intense intervals of training, it is also essential to focus on the low-intensity periods of your workout. High intensity intervals are great for burning calories but monitoring how your heart recovers during the lower-intensity parts of your routine can be very significant in indicating how effective your training is. If you notice your heart rate dropping down in one minute or less during your rest periods, this indicates good heart health.

4. You feel like you’ve challenged your body in new ways

This may be tricky, as although we don’t want you to feel like you’ve reached the end of your tether, you definitely want to feel like you’ve expended a good amount of effort. For example, if you’re doing cardio you should be feeling breathless when holding a conversation. But if you are unable to hold a conversation, this means you need to lower the intensity. If you are doing weights, it should be a struggle to do your last reps, this indicates you are putting in a fair effort. As soon as weights start feeling too light and you don’t feel like you’re exerting a lot of effort, this is a good time to look at upping your weight. You may benefit from taking L-glutamine, a natural amino acid that is vital for muscle growth, muscle function and also assists muscle recovery after exercise.

5. You sleep better

One of the great benefits of working out is that it generally makes you feel less sleepy, due to the surge of adrenaline and boost in energy it provides. Research has also indicated that sleep quality improves after just one single sweat session. All the more reason to hit the gym. However, if you are noticing that it is having the opposite effect and you have trouble winding down, this may indicate you are overtraining. You may benefit from taking magnesium, a powerful mineral that helps to promote healthy sleep and also helps to ease muscle spasms and cramps. There is excellent information in Dr Cabot’s book ‘Tired of Not Sleeping’.

6. You have more focus throughout the day

It should come as no surprise that exercise has great mental benefits as well as physical benefits. Working out causes endorphins to be released which make you feel happier and more confident. This can result in improved productivity, focus and clarity throughout the rest of the day. This is why it is so great to do your workout first thing in the morning. It sets you up in a positive way for the day ahead. Not to mention, this is something you will notice immediately. Tyrosine is an amino acid that stimulates the neurotransmitters involved in motivation, concentration, satisfaction, memory and a happy, stable mood.