How hard is hard enough?
I’m often asked how you know if you are working hard enough…especially since I tell people who being sore or feeling destroyed after a workout isn’t the best indicator of whether or not you had a great workout.
My answer, “Well it depends on your goals and/or the purpose of the workout!”
Not every workout needs to make you sore for days or leave you feeling like you are going to barf or die.
Working “hard enough” truly means challenging yourself so you can move forward toward your goals.
But if your workouts have no purpose and your goals aren’t clearly outlined, you can never really know if you are working hard enough unless of course you destroy yourself each and every time.
However, destroying yourself doesn’t mean you will necessarily be moving forward toward your goals. Because moving forward means working out SMART.
Because working SMART and working HARD are not the same thing.
You can work hard and get nowhere….
So maybe we shouldn’t be worrying about working hard enough so much as working smart…Which as I said above means having a purpose for your workouts and clearly outlined goals.
It also means TRACKING what you are doing so you can see improvements and progress toward your goals.
For instance, if you want to strengthen your glutes you want to challenge yourself to lift more each and every time. However, if you constantly are doing different exercises, you don’t really know if you are lifting more because each move will require different loads.
And just because you are sore after each glute workout doesn’t mean you are getting stronger.
So in order to really see if you are getting stronger, you need to have a move you can compare – a move you can add a little more weight to each week.
Notice I said a LITTLE MORE. You don’t want to make drastic changes each week because you also need to do a workout that doesn’t make you so sore you can’t do the other workouts you have scheduled for the week.
Basically you need to workout SMART.
It isn’t about pushing your limits every time. It is about creating CHANGE. Because destruction doesn’t guarantee results…Smart progress and change does!
Don’t just throw together workouts that make you work hard! PLAN OUT workouts that make you PROGRESS.
One of my favorite workouts to prove that feeling destroyed at the end isn’t the only measure of how hard you worked is the POWER WORKOUT.
The point of the power workout is to make you more explosive and improve your mind-body connection. Workouts like this make you stronger and help you recruit more muscle fibers faster and more efficiently.
A Power Workout leaves you feeling like you could do more at the end. You work for like 8-12 seconds and then you rest for about 5 times the length of time you worked.
When you rest, you should feel completely ready to go again. And you may even feel ready to go before you start. But you need the rest so you can be just as explosive each round as you were the first time.
Because a Power Workout isn’t about going to failure. It is about being super explosive each and every time. Which means you need to REST.
At the end of the workout, you shouldn’t feel destroyed. But doing this type of workout will create change and help you progress toward your goals.
Because working “hard enough” with a power workout doesn’t mean making yourself barf. It means being as explosive and powerful as you can for the short burst and then completely recovering.
Because working “hard enough” doesn’t really matter in the end if you aren’t moving toward your goals.
Focus on working out SMART.
Focus on creating a PLAN that leads to progress and RESULTS.
So stop asking if you are working out hard enough and focus on working toward your goals!
Workouts should make you feel BETTER!
The other day I went to a health fair as one of the vendors and a woman from a massage and chiropractor office came over to me and started talking to me about training.
She told me one of her massage therapists was super into Crossfit and that they got a TON of business from there. She said to me, “Oh you know how it is with all that super intense exercise….So many people get injuries, but it is worth it.”
I’m honestly not sure what I said in response because all I could think was, “UHMMM…NO…Actually I don’t because people come to me feeling crappy with maybe some aches and pains and my intention is to make them feel BETTER not WORSE.”
And I’m not meaning to bash Crossfit here because, to be honest, there are a lot of idiots out there in the fitness industry in a lot of different capacities. Heck, stupid people training themselves injury themselves. But with the popularity of Crossfit increasing, there are going to be more and more idiot trainers flocking to it. It’s that way with anything that becomes popular.
Anyway….My point is that WORKOUTS SHOULDN’T MAKE YOU FEEL WORSE!
I’m not exactly sure when or why a good workout became defined as a workout that murders you. I’m not exactly sure when or why it became cool to be injured.
But let me assure you…It isn’t.
And five years down the road, when other injuries have popped up because you didn’t properly rehab your “cool” injury, you won’t be thinking that pushing through the pain was all that darn awesome.
Workouts can be GOOD and even hard without leading to injury or making you feel like death every time after you finish.
Every workout doesn’t have to feel like a slaughter.
Actually every workout SHOULDN’T feel that way if you are truly interested in getting results.
Just because someone else, who you think you should be lifting as much as, is lifting a certain weight doesn’t mean YOU are ready to lift it.
YOU CAN’T RUSH THINGS OR COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS! Workouts are a BUILDING process. And that progress isn’t going to be a straight line up!
And if you don’t respect the process, you are going to get injured and workouts aren’t going to make you feel better like they should!!!
A couple of months ago, I had this new guy join my latest evening class.
One of the first exercises we did was a single leg deadlift. Because he hadn’t done the move before and hadn’t done much balance or core work recently, he had to use very light weights.
At the end of the workout, he comes up to me a little downtrodden and says, “I was doing way less weight than some of the people I know I should be doing more than.”
I said to him, “Why should you be doing more than them?” I, of course, knew he meant he should be doing more than them because they were older than him and female and he thought as a younger man he should have more strength than them. And he is, in fact, “stronger” than them in that he probably has more natural brut strength.
But when he stated what I mentioned above I said, “But they have done this before AND they have BUILT UP TO IT! Their bodies are ready to handle the load while doing the movement.”
He then said to me, “Well if I held the weight this way or did a double leg move, I could do more.”
I then said, “But this move builds up all the small muscles so that you can lift even MORE when we progress to those bigger, heavier lifts. Plus just because you can lift it, doesn’t really mean your body is ready to.”
He didn’t seem completed convinced. But he has been putting in the work and remained patient.
And guess what? The workouts have been making him feel BETTER and STRONGER every single day.
He just had to stop worrying about what other people were doing or the weight his was doing.
He had to focus on HIS GOALS.
So if your workouts aren’t making you FEEL BETTER, are they really worth it?
Are you too caught up in doing gnarly workouts instead of staying focused on what truly matters?
So I finished my latest workout progression last Wednesday with 20 minutes on the battling ropes.
I then took four days off while I traveled to visit the Man Bicep Mom and my sister (which by the way was SO much fun!).
Since coming back, I’ve been working out with no clear direction. I figured my body could use the break from intense training and it is nice every once in a while to take a week to just play!
I’m just experimenting, trying new things and working on strengthening areas for my next progression. I’ll probably just “goof around” until Monday when I start a two-week powerlifting progression before getting back to training for the OKC Kettlebell competition we will be holding in February.
The other day I tried this glute bridge exercise that I’ve seen one of the owners, Corey, doing on a regular basis. It was killer and a great way to improve my deadlift. I’ve also tested out a few core exercises I’d found online and worked on my kettlebell swing.
Then today I jumped in on one of Aaron’s workouts and got my first chance to work with the atlas stones.
While I wasn’t lifting them like this guy, I did get to do a core exercise with the “little” 125lbs one. Aside from smashing my elbow underneath it so that I now have a second elbow off of my first elbow, I really really liked using those stones.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the exercise we were doing today, but it did make you look like a turtle stuck on your back. It was a great core exercise because it not only worked all of the muscles of your trunk, but it also worked your triple extension, meaning it also worked all the way down your legs.
Anyway, the point of this short rambling post is that while I’ve been harping on progression and setting a goal and tailoring your program to move you closer to that goal, it is also very important to remember to take ACTIVE REST weeks. Every month or two months, you should take a week where you just PLAY.
You don’t necessarily have any clear-cut goals. You are allowing yourself to just relax while not being completely inactive.
You are just experimenting and readying your mind and body for another round of intense, hard work.
So while setting out a clear progression toward your goals is important, remember it is also important to every once in a while give your mind and body and chance to play with no stress or pressure to accomplish a goal.