Every committed gym junkie and fitness fanatic faces a conundrum. Beginners know they worked hard because they feel it in their aching muscles, but the fitter you get, the harder it is to tell what’s hard. Your muscles adapt, and the soreness you used to feel just isn’t the same anymore.
It’s a good thing overall, but it can also be disheartening when you arrive at this question:
If you’re not in pain post-gym, did you actually achieve anything?
The signs your workouts are effective aren’t what you think. It’s not about how much you hurt or how much you sweat or how eager you are to raid the fridge for a protein-packed snack. Instead, experts recommend looking for other clues that you’re getting harder, better, faster, stronger. Check out a quick list of them below.
Your Numbers Are Improving
It’s obvious, but it’s also the easiest starting point: if your numbers are improving, your fitness is improving. When you can lift heavier, run longer, and exercise within your target heart rate zone, you have tangible evidence that the sweat you’ve shed in the gym is paying off. It doesn’t mean the workouts will get easier – at least not if you’re doing them right – but seeing concrete proof of your progress is a powerful motivator.
Your Recovery Times Are Quicker
You experience two kinds of recovery when you exercise. One happens over an extended period, in between workouts. The other happens mid-workout, in the brief moments of relief between sets. When your training is effective, both kinds of recovery should be shorter and leave you feeling energised. Feeling tired all the time is an indication that you may be working too hard for your current fitness level. Ease off and build back up slowly.
How bored are you at the gym? Are you the guy trying to read a novel on the stationary bikes or watching Real Housewives reruns on the treadmill? Do you dread workouts so much that you avoid them altogether? If your training regime is working, you won’t be tempted to blow it off or find ways to distract yourself. Your workouts will have your full attention.
You Feel (Literally) Pumped
Muscle soreness can mean you just had a great training sesh, but it isn’t a consistently reliable measurement of effort. Look for muscle swelling instead.
Excess blood is pushed to your muscles after a strenuous workout to bring in oxygen and essential nutrients, causing the muscles to temporarily expand. This is the “fullness” or “pumped up” sensation you may have noticed immediately after exercising.
You’re Sleeping Well
Physical exertion and sleep go hand-in-hand. Scientific research, like this study from 2005, has proved that people snooze better and feel more alert alert during the day if they get a sufficient amount of exercise.
The hormones released during training help modulate sleep, giving you get a sounder, undisrupted slumber. A good night’s sleep can, in turn, enhance your other health goals by curbing weight gain and boosting your immune system.