You Didn’t Necessarily Break A Sweat
If you finish your workout in a pool of sweat, don’t be fooled, as the experts say this isn’t always a sign of a killer session. As Third Space trainer Lucie Cowan explains, sweating is merely a response to exercise: “Sweating is your body’s way of regulating your core temperature as a result of increased blood flow and increased heat produced by working muscles and organs. Essentially, sweating just cools you off.” Lucie also explains sweating is dependent on several factors, which don’t always correlate to the effort you put into training. “We’re born with anything from two to four million sweat glands, and women have more sweat glands than men, but male glands are more active. Plus, as your fitness levels increase, you tend to sweat less as your body adapts.” Getting a good sweat on may feel good, but shouldn’t be used to monitor performance, says Lotti Maddox, head of fitness at BLOK. “You’re more likely to sweat in a HIIT class than you will when strength training, but one is no more or less effective. Pushing yourself physically to the point of sweating and getting your heart rate up is good for you, but at the same time, controlled strength training which may not raise your heart rate as much is also vital for optimal fitness.”
If your tummy rumbles after hitting the gym, this is a key sign your body has depleted its glycogen stores, explains Emma Rawlinson, trainer at Core Collective. “When you workout, your body uses carbs for energy, so if you feel super hungry after a workout, your body is telling you to replenish what it has used.” Due to the fact muscle synthesis is happening constantly, Lucie explains it’s also normal for hunger pangs to strike throughout the day, not always immediately after training. “If you are training consistently, hunger is not the devil. As long as you are providing your body with nutritious options, hunger shouldn’t be ignored. Strength training in particular is likely to increase your appetite due to the effect it has on your muscles.” In a nutshell, when you lift weights, it causes microscopic tears in your muscles, and your body needs additional fuel in the form of protein to aid recovery and rebuild these tears. “If you ignore post-strength training hunger, you’ll risk losing the strength gains from your session and risk painful DOMS to show for it, too,” Lucie warns.
You Felt Challenged
When it comes to measuring the intensity of your workout, the experts recommend using your RPE (rate of perceived exertion). “RPE ranks how hard you feel your body is working on a scale of 1-10 and is applicable to any form of activity. Plus, it works for you over time as you get fitter, when metrics like heart rate may no longer be an accurate measure of your fitness levels. For example, an RPE of 7/10 will be relative to you, regardless of fitness level – you may just have to work harder to feel that ‘7’ as you progress.” For a decent workout, aim for at least a 4 or 5. If you’re new to exercise and unsure of how RPE correlates to you, try the ‘talk test’ instead – i.e. if you struggle to hold a conversation mid-workout, you’re doing something right. Lotti also says this is sign your aerobic system is activated. “If you can hold a conversation during a workout, this means you are using your aerobic energy system, whereas if you push yourself beyond this you will start working into your anaerobic system. It’s important to work in both – your aerobic system is great for endurance performance, cardiovascular and respiratory function and fat burning. Your anaerobic system, meanwhile, can improve power and bone density to prevent issues like osteoporosis.”
Your Muscles Feel Fatigued
A certain level of muscle soreness post-workout is to be expected, although the experts say it’s not the Holy Grail of fitness. “No pain, no gain is a phrase I hear far too often but it means nothing – soreness isn’t an indicator of a good workout,” Lucie says. “A lack of soreness after a session could simply be down to an effective warm-up or cool-down, or a sign that your body has adapted well to the type of exercise you did that day. For example, eccentric muscle contractions (think lowering a dumbbell back down in a bicep curl) are more likely to cause soreness as they place a higher load on your muscles compared to concentric contraction (curling upwards in a bicep curl).” Emma also says DOMS, the heavy feeling you get in your muscles a few days after a workout, is a sign you’ve triggered muscle growth, so a certain level of fatigue is a good sign, but beware of excessive soreness. “If your muscles are constantly sore, you could be overdoing it. If you’re constantly breaking down muscle tissue and not giving it the opportunity to repair, you’ll become exhausted and prone to injury. It’s about training smarter, not harder,” she advises.
You’re Sleeping Like A Baby
Did you know a good workout can guarantee a good night’s sleep? “When you notice you’re sleeping better and feeling more rested when you wake up in the morning, that’s a positive sign you’re on the right track with what you’re doing in the gym,” Lucie says. “Research shows exercise can improve the quality and quantity of sleep. According to research, exercise can also help you get quality deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to recover.” It’s a win-win situation.
Your Fitness Is Improving
Whether you’re trying to improve your 5k time or are lifting weights, a consistent routine will lead to results, and there’s more to progress than muscle soreness, says Lucie. “Feeling or not feeling sore after a workout is not a correlation to how strong you are or how well you’re progressing. Instead, better indications that you’re getting fitter include being able to perform more sets of an exercise with the same weight; being able to perform more repetitions; being able to lift heavier; finding your usual workout easier; and being able to do more in less time. In practice, this means you’ve noticed improvements such as shaving a few seconds off your run time or lifting the bar with an extra kilo or two – these are real measures of success.”
You Listened To Your Body
“A successful workout is not measured by the number of calories you burn or the amount you sweat. Instead, you should distinguish a great workout by how you feel. If you finish a workout feeling strong and energised, this is a great sign,” Lucie stresses. “Remember you’re only ever one workout away from a good mood.” Emma agrees, adding the results of a good workout are just as emotional as they are physical: “Try to gauge how successful your workout was based on how you feel, rather than how exhausted you are. Do you feel empowered? Do you feel you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? Do you feel you’ve given the best you can, in that moment, even if you’ve had a rubbish day or a bad night’s sleep? If you’ve answered yes to any of these, then you’ve had a good session.”
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