Here are some of the questions that linger in my mind after my sweat sessions: “how effective was my workout?” “why are things getting easier?” “why don’t I feel as challenged as I did a few months ago?” “why am I not dropping weight as fast as I was?” “why am I not seeing results as fast as I was?” Honestly, the whirlwind of unanswered questions used to multiply in my mind when it came to evaluating the effectiveness of my fitness routine.
Like most people, I am eager to see results and keen to feel the difference the next time I workout, but what I found challenging was how to evaluate myself because I’ve always been active all my life. I never lost my fitness routine, even after my days as a high school athlete, aside from when I was ill or injured. Measuring effectiveness became an afterthought (or sometimes not a thought at all), because what I knew was that I was meeting the minimum recommended hours by health experts. All I thought about was as long as I am working out and sweating I am improving my fitness. Not until my education in personal training do I now understand some of the important principles to think about when evaluating the effectiveness of my routine:
#1 - Progression
What’s important to consider in regards to progression in fitness is, “how am I progressing my fitness?” or “how am I progressing the challenge I place on myself?” As humans we tend to complain about boredom when things get too ‘routine’, but the truth is we are also uncomfortable with change (whether mentally, physically, or in other aspects in life).
In fitness, it is important to keep the body challenged. The body naturally adapts to exercise, think about doing your first push up (or lack of ability to do a proper one), then think about the progression between the first attempt to the most recent attempt (that is if you’ve been working on them of course!). There’s a drastic difference in ability thanks to our body’s ability to adapt!
This is why progression is important, without progression, the body becomes stagnant. Progression is the key to improving our level of fitness and this can be done is so many ways, but here are some tips:
- Increasing repetitions
- Increasing weight(s) used for a specific exercise (e.g. I can complete 12 repetitions of chest presses with two 7kg [approx. 15.4lbs] dumbbells, therefore I can induce progression by increasing my repetitions or to increase the weight I lift).
- Increasing frequency of training (e.g. instead of twice a week move up to three or four)
- Incorporating new workouts (e.g. if you’re a yogi, maybe adding a circuit class into the week would be handy)
#2 - Regularity
It is important to maintain regularity in training routines because any progress made or any physiological adaptations the body makes is impermanent. Yes, you heard me right! What’s at play here is the principle of reversibility and the principle of diminishing returns. In simple terms, these two principles outline the unavoidable physiological truth in which the body operates with; adaptations can happen positively or negatively, it is part of the body’s natural state of development.
This is why I advocate for fitness as a lifestyle choice rather than a method for weight loss because the strength of the weight loss industry tends to cloud this distinction.
#3 - Overload
Overload identifies the specific need in strength training to increase the weight load or resistance in order to maximize the capacity for strength development. This is important because not everyone does strength training, especially as a female in Asia, there’s a certain taboo to the idea of strength training.There’s a great fear in getting too big or too muscular, but the reality is in order to achieve more strength and get stronger, strength training, whether with weights, body weight, or resistance is important (remember: the more muscles we have the more calories we burn at rest). There’s a whole lot to gain with weights and strength training in general, but the main benefits are to assist in progression and more importantly the health and physiological benefits which come with it; like an increase in bone density.
There are plenty of reasons to train and sweat but having a better understanding of the full scope of the benefits which go along with training is also beneficial in helping to create longevity in routine. These guidelines helped me to understand the value of getting comfortable in discomfort. Following the same routine is always what's comfortable, but it’s more important to challenge the body in order to catalyze positive development in my health and fitness. We all want to make all our efforts count, so it’s time to stay conscious about what we do!