Question: How do I know I am working out hard enough?
How many times have you left the gym feeling like you didn’t work out hard enough? If you are not seeing the results you’re looking for, the answer is simple: You’re probably not.
Just because you’ve been working out consistently, doesn’t mean you are getting the most out of your time. Every so often it’s important to re-evaluate your purpose, your goals and level of intensity: Do you want to gain strength, lose fat, tone muscle, build endurance—or maybe even all of these?
Once you know your goals, you must then decide what exercises you will perform to achieve them. Choose the ones that you enjoy, and that work the basic muscle groups, using this as a starting point. Then budget your training time so you can maximize your investment at the gym to achieve your goals. Will you focus on separate body parts at a time? A HIIT routine? Will it include cardio or a full-body workout?
To see results, how do we define what is “hard enough?” It is a threshold that is unique to each individual, but here are a few guidelines:
Breathing and heart rate
Working hard at the gym requires effort and focused breathing. You should be breathing harder than usual and your heart rate should be higher than normal. You can wear a heart rate monitor to assist you in staying in your target heart rate zone. For most individuals, depending on age, a heart rate between 130–160 bpm is a good standard in achieving great results.
Concentrate on the exercise you are performing and focus on the proper techniques to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise. Reading, texting, or talking is taking you away from what you are there to do, which is to train hard!
What you get out of your workouts also depends on what you put into your body. Properly nourish your body before your workout, and feed your muscles after intense exertion.
To see results, a certain level of exercise frequency is necessary. Some weeks may be more productive than others, but you should try to get at least 2-3 scheduled workout days a week. Of course, the more frequently you work out, the greater the results.
For weight training, if you can get to your goal number of repetitions for the exercise you are performing, and you can still do more while maintaining proper form, then you aren’t working hard enough and can probably increase the weight. In contrast, if you cannot reach your goal number of repetitions without extreme strain, decrease the weight.
Are you doing all your exercises correctly? Sometimes the smallest changes can lead to the biggest results. Never add weight if you cannot maintain proper form.
Keep pushing your limits. Your body is capable of handling anything. If you want to see results, you must push past the barriers. Continually re-evaluate and create new goals. Challenge yourself. Showing up in the gym is only half the battle. The other half is the intensity you bring to your workout.
Nichelle Laus is a proud mom of 4 boys under the age of 8; she has trained and competed at an amateur level in both boxing and kickboxing for over 20 years. She is a certified personal trainer, kickboxing and kettlebell instructor, motivational speaker, and fitness and cover model. She is a Figure and Bikini competitor, and competition and transformation coach for Team Laus. She loves to teach and inspire others.