In today's fitness world, it's far too common to see workouts of the day, random HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions, mindless sweat dripping cardio bursts and gimmicky challenges, dressed up as unique promises that guarantee to solve your fitness woes.
When we are lying on the ground and drenched in sweat after pushing ourselves to the brink of exhaustion, we feel as though we must have gotten stronger and taken one step closer toward our goals.
But, have we? It's possible. More than likely though, we've only gotten sweaty, tired and sore like we do every other misguided training session. So, how do we know if we are making actual progress?
In this weeks Bite-Sized Breakdown, we will go over true indicators of health and fitness progression and the often over-hyped focus factors, that are more closely associated with "feelings" than they are with real progress.
*We will be keeping the focus of this blog on the physical signs of progression. It's important to note, that there are countless mental benefits of progression that are in many cases, just as important.
Feelings of Progression
1.) Sweaty Mess: It's always a great feeling to push yourself to the max and fall to the floor in a heap of sweat and satisfaction.
However, sweat is not a direct indicator of progress. Sure, it can be a by-product of a well-designed workout. However, sweat (itself) is the body's way of regulating it's temperature. No more and no less. Some of the best workouts, can be met with minimal perspiration. Sweat has no magical properties of progression.
2.) Sweet Soreness: Who doesn't like feeling sore (slightly, not can't sit without assistance kind of sore) in the muscles we want to improve upon and the areas we want to melt body fat from. If we are sore, then it must be working right?
However more often than not, soreness is indicative of a new training stimulus and/or under recovery; more so than an indicator of actual progression. It's also important to remember, that we actually get weaker when we train and it's our recovery (sleep, nutrition, proper programming, etc.) that results in the body adapting and getting stronger. It's actually quite possible (likely even), to be sore all the time, become weaker and increase risk of injury due to improper programming, nutrition and lack of recovery.
Temporary soreness is OK. Chronic soreness is an issue that needs to be addressed. Overall being sore, is a poor barometer to gauge whether or not what we are doing is effective.
3.) Tired/Exhausted: I'm always impressed when a client pushes themselves to their perceived maximal effort. They should be proud of their hard work and solid effort. Not everyone has the guts and grit to reach for that last gear, when their engine is already red lining.
However, I see far too many trainers proud of making their clients tired. Why? Anyone can make a client tired. It doesn't take creativity or an educational foundation to push someone to their max. Not to mention, if a client always goes to same level of fatigue, using the same load, in the same way; they will not improve past a low-level of initial adaptation. This will ultimately lead to lack of results, frustration and possibly quitting.
Tired of working out and not seeing results? Check out some examples below, that will give you a much better insight as to whether or not what you are doing is working.
Indicators of True Progression
- Increase in Fat Free Mass (increase in muscle's measurements)
- Decrease in body fat percentage (decrease in waist measurement or trouble areas)
- Getting stronger (lifting more weight w/proper form)
- Resting less between exercises
- Clothes fitting better (more to your liking)
- Exercise form improving
- Improved blood work
- Reduction of health related medications
- Improved range-of-motion
- Lower resting heart rate
If you are noticing some of these changes above, then you are probably on the right track and following a sound progressive protocol. However, if you are struggling to achieve some of these benefits, then it may be time to take a deeper look at your (or your trainer's) approach. It's awesome to feel like we are crushing it. But, "feelings" don't always equal results.
Progression comes in many forms based on individuals goals and preferences. Some results will absolutely be more subjective, especially when it comes to the mental aspect of health and fitness. However, It's important to be honest with ourselves when we aren't achieving what we want. Just because our trainer tells us so, or we "feel" like we are working hard, doesn't necessarily mean we are getting any closer to what we desire. We need a properly designed training program, an appropriately targeted nutritional approach and a recovery protocol all tailored to meet our specific needs. With these things in place, we will maximize our chances for success and minimize our chances for injury and/or burnout. Random workouts, random nutrition and random recovery, will lead to random results at best and no results or injury at worst.
At Pure Form PFT, we have you covered on all fronts. If by chance you train outside of the PFT setting, just be sure to take these things into account and challenge yourself (or your trainer) to look past your "feelings" and stare directly at the emotionless reflection of objective truths.
Well, that's a wrap folks! Let's get off the emotional roller coaster of "fitness feelings" falsehoods, gather our objective equilibrium and break this thing down "Bite-Sized" style.
Let's be honest...It's pretty easy to trick (or be tricked) ourselves in to thinking we know our bodies better than we actually do. I mean it makes sense, right? We have in fact, spent our entire lives in these "spirit gloves". Sometimes though when you are inside the frame, it's pretty difficult to see the entire picture.
Say for example, you want to lose some unwanted body fat and build some lean muscle. Well, pretty simple right? You may begin by working out day after day, always ending up sweaty, sore and satisfied. Initially, you notice a bit of progress and the whisper begins, "I've finally found what works." Then, just like that, you've been training for six months and not much more has happened since your initial progress blip. Eventually, you get discouraged, frustrated and give up assuming that your body is unique and just won't respond. Maybe it' s just not in the cards for you?Here's the trick...If you try and force your body, it will "react". That "reaction" will not be up to you.
You don't need a sledgehammer to hang your favorite picture on the wall. Sure it'll do the job, but at what cost to your structure. Instead, if you coax your body (with proper training, nutrition and recovery), it will respond. Respond in a way that will give you renewed hope and confidence, in yourself and in your health.
Here's the other trick...Gyms/Trainers know that most individuals feel accomplished, if they "feel" like they've received a great workout. So both trainees and trainers take pride if the session ends with a sweaty pile of exhausted progress seekers, anticipating that feeling of soreness in the coming days that must be the promising beacon of the "future you" coming into shape. Remember though, "fitness feelings" don't necessarily equal progress. Just because you sweat a lot, exhaust yourself and end up being sore, does not mean you've taken one step closer to your desired direction.
So why does so much misinformation exist in the health and fitness world?
Unfortunately, the fitness industry has virtually no standards or safe guards. As crazy as it sounds, many gyms will certify their "trainers" over the weekend. Online personalities will slap "online trainer" onto their bio and poof, we have a brand new "expert". On a personal note, this makes me both sad and extremely frustrated. This allowable malpractice, leads to so many people misplacing their trust and being taken advantage of. It becomes a dangerous, "I heard from so and so", "who learned from so and so", "who was told by so and so" loop, that all began from a faulty premise.
At Pure Form PFT, our goal is to be your reliability resource. To help you sort through the myths, marketing, gimmicks and outright snake oil salesmen of the fitness world. If you give your very best each and every day, we believe you deserve the very best in return.
Fitness Facts > Fitness Feelings.