Feeling disillusioned? How to tell your workouts are working!

The telling signs you’re on track…
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You might have heard the saying, “It’s not a good workout unless you’ve broken a sweat.” But how much of that is down to exercise rather than, say, a hot and crowded room?

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“Breaking a sweat is definitely a great side-effect of working out, but it isn’t the only sign of a good one, and not always necessary – depending on your goals,” explains Brooke Turner, nutritionist and exercise scientist from Balance Fitness and Nutrition.

So is that workout working? Brooke says these are the signs to look for…


When you do resistance training, you’re causing tiny “micro tears” in your muscle fibres, which heal to create bigger muscles – hence that sore feeling you get the next day.

“If you’ve ever had some time off training, tried out a new form of exercise, upped your load or mixed up your program, you would have experienced this,” Brooke says.

But she adds, “you won’t always pull up sore after a workout, so don’t think that just because you’re not struggling to get off the couch that you didn’t train hard enough.

“The more you train, the fitter and stronger you become. Your body adapts to your training style.”

Make sure you’re moving your body in different directions. (Credit: Instagram)

Change it up

While Brooke says high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gives an excellent workout, you should combine it with low-intensity steady state (LISS) moves like walking, running and cycling.

“HIIT workouts are an efficient way to maintain or increase your lean muscle mass,” Brooke explains.

“Lower intensity exercise digs deeper into your fat stores as the primary source of energy rather than your carbohydrates and glucose, which complements fat loss goals.”

You should also make sure you’re moving your body in different directions.

“Try to incorporate a variety of the seven fundamental human movements: pull, push, squat, lunge, hinge, rotation and gait,” she adds.

Always monitor your progress. (Credit: Instagram)

The long haul

“Always monitor your progress,” advises Brooke.

“Some common methods include weighing, skin folds, measurements and DEXA [bone density] scans.”

It’s also useful to pay attention to how your clothes fit. Don’t be disheartened if the scales aren’t moving because you may be replacing fat with muscle, which is heavier.

“If you’re incorporating resistance training, take note of the weights that you use and this can be reviewed later to see if your strength is improving,” Brooke adds.

“Any pain that progressively gets worse as you’re training is not a good sign.” (Credit: Instagram)

Know when to stop

“Dizziness, chest pain, numbness, tingling, breathing difficulties or fainting during workouts are signs that you should stop immediately and seek assistance if required,” Brooke advises.

You also need to distinguish the difference between the “good” kind of soreness that suggests you’ve had an effective workout and the “bad” kind that can indicate an injury.

“Bad pain is sharp and localised,” Brooke cautions.

“Any pain that progressively gets worse as you’re training is not a good sign. If you experience any of this, take a break from the activity until you can get to your doctor and have it checked out.”

“It’s not a good workout unless it makes you feel good in your body and also in your mind.” (Credit: Instagram)

Things to remember

When you work out, you should feel your muscles activate. “For example, if you were performing bicep curls and sit-ups, your upper arms and core would be feeling activated,” Brooke says.

But if you feel back or neck soreness, Brooke explains this is a sign of “bad” pain and that your technique may need work.

Remember: it’s not a good workout unless it makes you feel good in your body and also in your mind.

“Mentally, workouts can help to alleviate anxiety, boost your brain power, increase confidence, reduce stress, sharpen your memory and lift your mood,” Brooke recommends.

If you don’t already own a smart watch, consider dropping a few hints for one this Christmas! “There are so many on the market to meet personal goals, style and budget with a huge range of features to not only keep you motivated, but also track your progress,” says Brooke.

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