Workout levels, my observation from 25 years of working out
Right off the bat, I want to make sure people don’t take this post as a criticism of anyone’s workout intensity. Everyone has their own idea of “high intensity” and only you (and maybe your trainer) can tell whether you met that level.
That being said, I have 3 levels of exercise, none, recovery, and normal.
For me, normal is hard. There’s no such thing as a “light workout day”, if I didn’t work hard, I count it as a recovery day.
OK so what is hard, hard means out of breath, maybe a few spots in front of your eyes. Muscles are quivering with exhaustion, joints might be a little sore, sweat everywhere (I spend about 1/3 of my workout time in the gym wiping stuff down.).
It doesn’t really matter what I’m doing, these features (or subsets of them) are universal. After my 3rd squat set I am shaky walking and sweating like and S.O.B. After my HIIT training I’m sucking down water, dripping sweat everywhere, unable to speak other than the random grunt. After a run, similar to HIIT except my feet generally hurt, and I have that well known “heat divot” in front of my eyes making walking in a straight line a little difficult for a minute or 3. If I don’t have these symptoms, I know I didn’t push myself, thus I didn’t improve my physical fitness that day.
So now that you know what is hard (from my perspective), I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret, I only go this hard 2 to 3 times a week. And yes, I’m in very good shape. Being in great shape cardiovascularly and being strong doesn’t require 6 days a week of “hard” workouts, it requires being consistent in your weekly workouts, and watching your eating habits.
If you’re trying to become healthier (and yes, that includes fat loss) it doesn’t mean you have to spend 2 hours a day training, heck I rarely spend more than 45 minutes (30 of which are “hard”) working out, it requires that you work hard when you work, and that you do it every week a few times.
So the next time you go to the gym or the track or lace up your running shoes with the intention of a “hard” workout, think about how you feel during and immediately after it, if you don’t feel similar to what I described above, you probably didn’t push it very hard. Just my two cents.