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Are You Working Out Hard Enough? 5 Reasons to Keep Going
Are you making the most of your gym time and working out hard enough by challenging your body?
If your workout just isn’t working anymore, one of these reasons could be to blame.
Although any kind of physical activity is better than nothing, some workout plans are better than others in terms of overall effectiveness.
However, if you’re chasing a goal — whether weight loss, greater strength or your first marathon — you need to keep challenging yourself in order to make progress.
By not working out hard enough your body won’t have the necessary stimulus it needs to adapt to be able to lift more weight, run farther and faster or burn fat more efficiently.
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You’re not Monitoring Your Heart Rate
Whether you’re running on the treadmill or doing some high-intensity interval training (HIIT), your heart rate should fluctuate between 75% of your maximum when you’re just starting out.
This will eventually build to 100%.
To roughly determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.
An easy way to track this is by using a heart-rate monitor.
Some people believe sweating to be the only indicator of working out hard enough, but remember some people may just be more prone to sweating than others.
A heart-rate monitor is simply the most effective way to gauge your intensity level.
If you don’t have one then stop and check your pulse halfway through your workout.
You can Hold a Conversation
A leisurely stroll with a friend is a nice way to pass the time, but that’s not enough if you want to lose weight.
So, if you can hold a conversation during your workout, you’re not working out hard enough.
Short phrases, maybe, but if you can have a full conversation while jogging, then you need to reevaluate your workout plan.
Not every run has leave you exhausted, but if you’re looking to up your game then you need at least a couple of high-intensity sessions per week.
The best way to measure your effort on high-intensity days is if you’re able to form full sentences during the hardest parts of the workout.
When is it Time to Speed Up?
If you’re chatting away, then it’s time to bump up the speed.
If you like to catch up on your favorite shows while running on the treadmill, then consider increasing the effort during commercials.
This will work out as two to three minutes at a hard-pace effort followed by seven to nine minutes at an easy recovery pace.
You can aim for two, but no more than four, high-intensity workouts per week.
Give yourself at least one full day of rest in between sessions.
It “Feels” too Easy
Knowing your rate of perceived exertion (RPE), or how hard you feel like your body is working, will let you know if you’ve been working out hard enough.
Try the Borg Scale to rate your RPE, where nine means “very light” exercise, 13 is “somewhat hard,” and 17 is “very hard.”
Personal trainer Pete McCall prefers to use a scale of one to 10.
One means you’re hanging out on the couch, while 10 refers to an all-out sprint.
“It’s all based on your perception,” McCall says. “What’s hard for you?”
On easy days, you should fall between a five and a seven.
At this rate, you should be able to carry a conversation.
On hard days, aim for a seven or eight.
At this level, you should only be able to manage a word here or there, but nothing more.
Start tracking RPE to gauge how you’re responding to workout intensity over time.
Are you Sore the Next Day?
You know what they say, “No pain, no gain.”
A good way to tell how hard you worked out is to see how you feel 24 hours later.
When you exercise, you cause microscopic damage to your muscles.
The muscles then adapt, repair themselves, and grow stronger.
Basically, you should feel some sort of soreness after a workout.
But not so sore that you can’t do what you normally do.
If you don’t feel any soreness then you probably didn’t stimulate your muscle enough to get results.
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A little bit of achiness means you worked hard enough to damage your muscle fibers.
They will eventually recover and grow back stronger when given the right type of nutrition.
You won’t want to feel sore every day, but if you’re never sore post-workout then it’s probably time to put in more work.
Give yourself a day of rest in between workouts.
This will help rebuild those sore muscle groups while you work a different set of muscles, alternating days to ensure that you don’t overwork one particular group.
Working Out at the Same Intensity all the Time
Once you’ve been on a workout plan for a while and are no longer becoming as sore or tired, it might be time to increase the intensity.
If your goal is to add lean muscle mass and definition, start increasing the amount of weight you lift.
If you just want to tone by using lighter weights then add some extra repetitions.
Rather than 10-15 reps, try pushing for 25.
If your focus is cardio, then go a little faster or start adding some interval training to your routine.
Your body is constantly adapting so if you do the same thing over and over again, your body won’t be challenged enough to make a change.
Don’t forget the more you work out, the more effort you’ll have to exert to keep making progress.
You’re not Cross-training
Not only do you need to change the intensity of your workout, but you also need to mix it up.
Get creative. Fit people don’t stick to just one routine, they cross-train.
If you’re performing the same set of squats and tricep dips on a daily basis, you’re probably creating imbalances in your body.
Don’t be afraid to add some variety.
Force yourself out of your comfort zone.
If you’re a runner, add some free weights.
If you only lift weights, try adding some Pilates or yoga moves to your routine.
Long stretching movements will help balance out your body and change the ratio of strength and flexibility.
You don’t have to do everything all at the same time.
Start by challenging your body to do something it’s not used to doing.
Do you See any Changes to Your Body?
You should expect strength gains after about four to six weeks of consistent training, says strength and conditioning coach, Erica Suter.
So if you’re working toward your squat PR, but your numbers haven’t moved at all after six weeks, then you need to work on increasing your intensity.
For strength training, this means keeping your reps on the lower side (one to five) and gradually upping the weight every couple of weeks, says Suter.
If you’re still relatively new to lifting weights (less than one year), then stick with three sets of eight to 12 reps for every exercise.
Add more weight once you can complete 12 reps with good form.
So don’t give up if you don’t see results after a week of working out.
After all, how long did it take for your body to get to where it is now?
If you Have Been Doing Everything Right
But if you have been working out consistently and eating a healthy diet for more than a few months then you should see some change.
Either a physical number change on the scale or in inches lost.
Otherwise, you might need to reassess your routine and figure out whether you are working out hard enough.
It can be incredibly frustrating and disappointing to feel like no matter how often or hard you work out your body isn’t responding the way you expect it to.
So in addition to working out harder, you have to work smarter.
You don’t need to work out every day or train like a professional athlete to get real results, so be sure to give your body the rest it needs.
When done the right way it should be a slow progression towards your workout goals, but one where you see progress is made.
5 Reasons to Keep on Working Out Hard
We all know the benefits to working out hard on a consistent basis, but oftentimes it’s not that easy. We are all busy and life does tend to get in the way.
1. Working out Hard Builds Aerobic Power
On average people lose about 1 percent a year of their aerobic power, or 10 percent per decade.
Both long-term and short-term exercise training studies have shown that you can cut this loss in half.
You can lose 15 percent rather than 30 percent in that 30-year period.
So building aerobic power is your most important reason to exercise.
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2. Exercise Reduces Blood Pressure
Hypertension decreases as the result of exercise because your heart, a muscle, is getting a workout. The stronger your heart muscle becomes, the greater its ability to pump blood through the arteries, which also helps to reduce your blood pressure.
3. Lowers Type 2 Diabetes Risk
The complications of adult-onset Type 2 diabetes can pose a serious risk.
By working out regularly, you improve your body’s ability to metabolize glucose, the key to keeping this disease away.
4. Maintains Immune System
Your immune system is what protects you from infection and other chemical toxins.
The immune system helps us maintain a healthy response to stress.
Even short-term exercise programs can reverse some of the effects of aging on this sensitive and complex regulatory system which controls so much of our everyday health.
5. Reduces Body Fat
Your BMI, or body mass index, provides an approximate measure of your overall metabolic status.
If you fall into the overweight or obese categories now, a regular program of aerobic exercise can bring your BMI down to normal levels.
It does this by mainly swapping the fat for the fat-free tissues in your body.
The more you exercise, the more you are able to work off your body fat.
Muscle “burns off” more calories, effectively speeding up your metabolism.
Final Thoughts on Are You Working Out Hard Enough?
No matter what your circumstances might be, working out hard can help you achieve greater physical and mental fulfillment.
It will make you be the best person possible.