I suppose the most frustrating feedback I get from clients or students would be the words, "Will the next class or time be more intense?"
It's more irritating to hear mostly because the person isn't really communicating what it is they need effectively. No matter how fast I move, how efficiently I move my muscles or demonstrate an exercise, it will never burn a calorie for someone who is not me. Looking the way I do, I often become an idealized coach for people rather than an actual coach. People get wrapped up in my physique and the longing to look like I do, and because of this they lose sight of making sure their own workout is effective.
It's a behavioral change issue. In the contemplation stage people may be trying out some exercise from time to time. People like this are looking to engage cardiovascular endurance mostly because that is what yields quick weight loss. They want to run and jump and hit things and work with intensity, not because it is what their body needs, but because that is what they believe is exercise. Strenuous, sweaty, and tiring. I am dealing with someone who may have a negative view toward exercise in general or perhaps has traveled backward from a previously strenuous work out regimen.
So how can we in the action or maintenance phase of change gauge what is a good workout if being sweaty and tired and nearly dying at the end of the work out isn't the goal?
When working with a trainer, the one thing that that hired individual is responsible for creating a personalized workout that helps the body prevent injury and disease. In the process the body will become stronger and begin to look like a body that is no longer at risk for injury and disease. Yes, that is correct. It is not a trainer's goal to make their client look good. It is the client's goal to have a good looking body. Always remember that difference. So in situations where a trainer is not making their client sweat a tons, perhaps the goal is actually about correcting the gait. So many people have developed abnormal patterns of walking making them jump up and down is only going to lead to injury. The National Academy of Sports Medicine explains, "Research has shown that heavier individuals exhibit worse balance, slower gait velocity, and shorter steps regardless of their level of muscular strength." For that reason personal trainers have to start with correcting very basic movement patterns and postural distortion syndromes before attempting high intensity work outs.
When attending classes, individuals have to take responsibility for their workout and it's efficiency. An instructor will always teach to the "back of the room" or new class attendees. That is their job to make sure the people in the class are successful. Those in the front of the room are given the basic instruction and usually a progression. Group classes are the perfect space for those looking for motivation but not the best for those looking for individual attention. In that, individuals should focus on ratings of perceived exertion when gauging the intensity of their work out. Using the Borg Scale which ranges from 6-20 with 6 being "not feeling like work" and 20 being "I am about to die". Ranges 12-14 is usually somewhat hard and at 65% of the maximum heart rate. Ranges 14-16 is hard and at 75% of the maximum heart rate. Ranges 17-20 are extremely hard and means that person is working in between 85-100% of the maximum heart rate. That being said, an effective workout should be between 65-85% of the maximum heart rate.
Individuals should check in with themselves through out class and work to keep their rating in between 14-16. If on assessment someone feels that they are rating a 12 then more energy must be put into the movement, dip lower, jump higher, move faster but it is not the choice of exercise that is preventing the intensity from going higher.
When working out at home, it is important to realize that the main goal is to get it done. Those of us not at a gym on the regular can find it hard to fit in a work out let alone one that leaves us feeling drenched in sweat. So for all the home bodies out there popping in that tape or using that app, a good work out is the one that is completed. Home regimens are some of my favorite because they can be broken up throughout the time spent at home. For instance, if walking or running up and down the stairs is a way someone works out, I would challenge that person to be sure to complete a full 30 minutes for that day. That could be 10 mins here, or 5 mins there. What people at home aren't getting is the accountability to complete the whole work out unlike people with trainers and those who attend group classes. Often at home we can increase our intensity by just increasing the time we spend on our regimen.
But Lish, You stil haven't answered the question. What is a good workout? How will I know when I have had a good workout?
A good workout should provide an increase in oxygen intake and elevate the heart rate until the body feels warm. Sweat may not form because some people do not sweat. A good work out should provide stimulation to large muscle groups and reinforce proper technique for average daily living activities. Soreness or muscle fatigue is not an indicator that muscles were stimulated, especially for weight loss. Simple energy balance like balancing calories in and calories out will produce weight loss.
Above all a good workout is one that can be done at least 4 days a week. Research has shown that those with hypertension experience a hypotensive reaction for 2 days after exercise. Those with arthritis benefit for 24 hours after exercise. Same case goes for most chronic diseases, so as healthy(ish) individuals we should strive to get in at least 3 days of exercise to prevent onset of a chronic illness. One solo day of killing oneself will never produce the same benefit that consistency does.