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How to Tell If You’ve Had a Good Workout

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happy exerciser stretching in the grass

Photo: Henri Ensio (Shutterstock)

Exercise shouldn’t feel horrible—although it can often feel hard. It’s tempting to think of soreness or sweat as a sign of a good workout, but neither of those really tell you whether what you’re doing is improving your health or making progress toward your goals. Instead, look at some of these measures.

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Can you do more than last month?

Don’t compare today’s workout to yesterday’s, but do compare it to something you did a few weeks, or months, or even years ago.

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Why not yesterday’s? First, because strength can vary from day to day for a variety of reasons, including how you’ve been eating, how well you slept, and your mood or stress levels that day.

But also, importantly: Whether you realize it or not, each hard workout leaves you with you a little bit of fatigue that you carry with you for the next few days. You can still work out and make progress during this time, but your objective performance might decrease. So, maybe you managed 60 pounds for a certain lift last week when you felt fresh, but today you only got 55. That’s totally fine, and doesn’t mean that you’ve gotten weaker.

Instead, compare yourself to how you did a few weeks back. Are you lifting 55 pounds now, whereas last month you could barely manage the 45-pound empty bar? Did you run for 30 minutes continuously today, when last month you had to take several walking breaks to make it through the same amount of time? That’s progress!

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Are you putting in the time and being consistent?

Maybe you can’t compare yourself to last month because back then you were doing totally different exercises—or none at all. Remember that making progress is all about staying consistent.

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Putting in the time is itself a victory. I’ve come to believe it’s the most important accomplishment you can reach for, because if you’re consistent, progress will find you. You can even combine this point with the prior one: Are you more consistent now than you were last month?

Are your minimums going up?

Something I’ve come to appreciate in weightlifting, a sport that requires technique and focus in addition to pure strength, is that your good days can be really good, but they may also be rare.

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My coach likes to remind me that the real sign of progress is not setting new PRs, but bringing up the minimum you can lift on a given day. I snatched 54 kilos once, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to snatch that again. On the other hand, I can get up into the high 40s with consistency; I did 48 on Tuesday and 49 last Friday. That’s a huge improvement from just a few months ago, when 42 was a lot for me.

This is really just another way of comparing progress over time, but it’s an especially satisfying one if you’ve been training for a while. I remember when deadlifting two plates was a pie-in-the-sky goal. Then I remember hitting it for a PR. Then I remember doing it for reps. These days, it’s just a warmup that I hit on the way up to my working weight for the day.

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In running, you might notice your best mile time turn into your 5K race pace. You might see a 30-minute 5K go from a holy shit, I did that? moment to a routine thing you do when your program calls for a tempo run.

Or if you do a workout video with dumbbells, you might start out using five-pounders, and later on discover that you can stick with eight pounds throughout the whole video. Don’t worry so much about what you do on your best day, but notice when something becomes easy to do regularly.

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Is your form better?

It’s still progress if you’re doing something better than you did before, even if you didn’t bump up your numbers. Are you squatting deeper? Getting your hips square every time in Warrior 1?

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Any type of exercise that depends on technique is one in which improving your technique is a legit accomplishment. The work that goes into technique or mobility improvements is easy to discount. Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Once again, this is something you may notice more over time than during a single workout, but small tweaks really add up.

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Do you feel great?

Not only do you not have to feel horrible, you can also feel great after a workout. Have you ever finished a workout feeling like you had more energy than when you started? It can happen! Especially if you accept that a workout can feel good, and that you don’t have to chase suffering.

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Exercise can feel good in the moment. It’s also wonderful to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment afterward, especially if you hit a PR or noticed one of these other signs of progress.

The positive effects of a workout can also last throughout the day. Exercise can lead to better sleep, better mood over time, and the ability to calm symptoms of anxiety or depression.

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An improvement in your mood or mental health is absolutely a valid response to exercise—and is honestly a better gauge of whether your time was well spent than whether you finished feeling like you wanted to collapse and die. (It’s also completely valid to feel both of those things at the same time.)

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
Black Wireless Charger Lamp | $20 | Amazon | Promo code ABC88699

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

With this wireless charger lamp, you can make this crucial step of your nightly routine even easier by just setting your phone on the wireless charging pad and… well, that’s all there is to it!

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Other functions include multiple lighting modes as well as a sleep timer option for auto shut-off of the light after 30 or 60 minutes.

This lamp can be yours in white for $18 if you clip the coupon on Amazon (it’s below the original $40 price) and add promo code ABC88699 at checkout.

You can snag the black version for $20 using the same code—no coupon though, sorry.

Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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