Does It Count If You Don't Sweat?

As a personal trainer, I see the full spectrum of workout personalities.

On one side are the people who love to feel like they are dying, and if they aren't gasping for air or nauseous, they don't feel like they got a good workout in. These are stereotypically CrossFit and HIIT classes folks. 


On the other side is the lady on the stationary bike with zero resistance and a full face of make-up, who pedals long enough to make it through an episode of her favorite show, but short enough not to break a sweat or ruin her fresh blowout. Pilates and barre will often get lumped into this side. 

So does a workout count if you don't break a real sweat?

Well, yes, actually. 

Sweating is not always the best indicator of "good" or "bad" workout. Contrary to popular fitness mantras (ranging from the hard core side who proudly tout, "sweat is pain leaving the body", to the friendlier motto of "sweat daily"), sweat alone does not necessarily indicate the best workout. 


You know this to be true if you've ever lifted super heavy weights (where you are in the 1-3 rep range). When you are maxing out your deadlift or squat (or any exercise for that matter), you only perform a couple reps, and then rest a full 2-5 minutes in-between sets.* You won't typically sweat much, but BOY is it hard work.

*Before I became a trainer and understood how real heavy lifting worked, I admittedly used to judge the "lazy" dudes who would do a couple reps and then just sit on their phones for 5 minutes... well now I know, it's not lazy, it's a must! (gotta let your energy systems recharge) 

Alternatively, I could take a spin class and add very little resistance to the bike and still sweat buckets without doing any real or noteworthy work. You know if you are guilty of doing this...

So what is the best way to assess a workout? 

Gauge your workout by your effort & how you feel after, not by how sweaty you did or didn't get. 

You also want to keep your goals in mind. Not every workout needs to be a "leave nothing on the field" effort for it to still be beneficial and supportive of your overall health and fitness goals.

But you also don't want to waste your time either.

Here are three better ways to judge your workout effectiveness: 

  1. You feel like you need to take a nap later in the day. This can happen with those heavier lifting sessions. Even if you didn't work up a sweat, your body put in some serious work!

  2. You are sore the next day. You won't always get sore, and that shouldn't be your goal, but it can be as useful barometer for new activity, especially if you didn't work up much of a sweat. (for example, I played beach volleyball over the weekend for the first time in like a decade, and even though I didn't really sweat during, my body was soreee yesterday. It was a great workout!)

  3. You feel stronger, your clothes fit better, and your mood is generally better. This is the best indicator of all. If you are seeing results from your workouts, whether or not they are super sweaty is irrelevant. You do what's best for you!


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