Don’t Get Distracted by Sweat—Here’s How to Tell If Your Workout Is Working

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Have you ever done a workout that doesn’t feel particularly difficult but for some reason you can’t stop sweating? Or, on the reverse, your muscles feel sore AF, but you haven’t sweat a single drop? It's not always so cut and dry and it can honestly be pretty confusing. So much so that we’ve started to ask ourselves: Does sweat equal a good workout or nah?

To find out, we reached out to fitness pioneer and creator of the Tracy Anderson Method Tracy Anderson for the low-down on why perspiration isn't always the best indicator of how well you did in a workout and what to pay attention to instead. “You can sweat sitting at the beach,” she says in a pretty matter-of-fact way that cuts through all the noise. She's right: Science shows that, when it comes to exercise, sweat is our body's cooling mechanism, and the liquid that leaves our pores helps to prevent us from cooking from within. What's more: Studies have even found that fit people tend to sweat more than those who aren't, indicating that sweat doesn't really play a role in helping you to understand how grueling a workout was.

“The sad truth is that you can feel like you are getting a good workout when you aren’t for all kinds of reasons.” Along with sweating, think: getting out of breath, feeling tired, experiencing a ‘burn’ from a certain stretch, the list goes on. Truth be told, however, none of these things are necessarily indicators of a quality workout. Instead, it could simply mean that it’s hot outside, you’re not feeling you’re best, you’re injured or something else is going on.

So then, what’s a solid way to gauge your workouts? “Your overall results,” Anderson states. “It takes time to measure the real results of a workout and it’s not just by what changes you see in your body.” Rather, she points out that it can manifest in the way you begin to feel ownership and certainty in the way you move — before, during, and after a workout. “A feeling of becoming unstuck in your mind and body [is what tells you how effective your workout is],” she explains. “These are really good first signs of your ability to grow into an everyday athlete.”

One concrete way to tell if a workout is working for you is to create a benchmark test for yourself. If you want to run a faster mile, know where you're starting and track your progress at the end of each week so that you can see progress in the works. If you want to up the number of push-ups you can do, then again set the clock for sixty seconds to gauge where you are and work from there.

In the end, Anderson says the trick is to learn how to feel and understand your own body while working out instead of relying solely on drops of sweat and fitness app notifications as proof that you got your workout in for the day. “The ability to hear one’s own body is very powerful for your health and happiness,” she mentions. “Becoming good at working out is a much more serious training and retraining of our connection to our physical selves and our ability to grow those connections in powerful ways.” While admitting to sweating during each and every workout that she performs, Anderson claims that the perspiration is produced by her willpower, adrenaline, and deep drive and intimate connection with the back and forth between her brain, body, and soul, not to mention the precision between them. And while that sweat might be temporary, the endorphins and feelings of crushing your fitness goals will stay with you for a much longer time.

Ready to sweat like Tracy Anderson? Set aside six minutes to bang out one of her favorite fast and effective workouts. Or maybe you want to eat like the celeb trainer? If that’s the case, you absolutely must try her deliciously creamy dressing that will transform literally any salad.

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