How Do You Know if Your Workout “Counts”?


You’ll get a different answer to this question depending on whom you ask. Some people will say that a workout only counts if you’re sweating and shaking on the floor when it’s finished. Other people will say that a workout only counts if it lasts an hour or longer.

There are lots of different opinions on what makes a workout count, and mine is different from many of them.

A Workout Counts if it Happens

In my opinion, a workout counts if it happens. Period. If you did a workout today, whether it lasted ten minutes or two hours, it counts.

Every workout brings you closer to your goals, no matter how long or short it is.

I was thinking about this concept today because I caught myself falling into the trap of thinking a workout only counts if it lasts for at least an hour.

Story Time

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

I was at the gym and was getting ready to leave. I’d finished the workout I’d programmed for myself and was heading over to walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes (my preferred way to cool down) before I went home.

As I was walking over to the treadmill, I looked down at my phone and saw that I’d only been at the gym for about 40 minutes. My initial reaction was to think that my workout hadn’t been long enough and that I should try and add something else in to make it last an hour.

As I’m typing this, it sounds ridiculous — because it is. I’d done everything I had programmed for myself, including a lot of compound moves like barbell deadlifts and a bunch of unilateral work. Trust me, I got in a good workout. It just was a little shorter than some of my other gym workouts.

Believe me, I know better. I know that a workout doesn’t have to last an hour to be effective — that’s why I create short workouts for you folks ALL. THE.TIME. I do those short workouts, too, and I know that they get the job done.

Even though I know all of these things to be true, I still get caught up in the #beastmode #nodaysoff #nopainnogain mentality. I have to remind myself that my workouts are just as good and just as important as everyone else’s, no matter how long or short they are. I want you to remember this as well.

You shouldn’t be ashamed of doing short workouts, nor should you feel the need to justify them or “make up” for them with a longer workout another day. This isn’t necessary, and it can often lead to an unhealthy relationship with exercise, which is definitely something I don’t want you to experience.

Nobody’s Watching Your Workout

I also got a little panicky when I was leaving the gym after being there less than an hour because I was worried (irrationally) that someone at the gym, like the person working at the front desk, would notice that I hadn’t been there for a full hour.

Now, I know that nobody in the gym was watching me that closely (and, frankly, if they were, they’re the ones with the problem, not me). Nobody was timing my workout or checking to make sure I stayed for a full hour, either.

Going to the gym is not my job. No one is checking to make sure I’m clocking in and clocking out at the right time.

I promise, it’s highly unlikely that anybody is watching you as intently as you might think they are when you’re at the gym (and, if they are, go report them because that’s creepy). They’re definitely not monitoring how long you’ve been there, either. They’re too busy worrying about themselves and wondering whether anyone is watching them.

The Caveat

I know I just spent a ridiculous amount of time talking about how a workout counts if it happens. I absolutely believe that. But, there is a caveat, as always.

If you have a very specific goal, you’re going to have to put in the work.

Your workouts will still “count” even if they’re shorter than you planned, but you’re not going to reach that goal on time if you’re not showing up and working out as hard or as long as you (and possibly your coach or trainer) have determined is necessary.

I’m not necessarily addressing the fitness competitor, the power lifter, or the athlete with this post.

If you’re in a position where you need to work out for a certain length of time or at a certain intensity to reach your goals, you need to push yourself, even on days when you don’t feel like it. I’m not here to tell you otherwise.

This post is meant more for the average gym-goer, the person who just wants to feel better, move more easily, and maybe shed a bit of body fat or gain some muscle.

If you’re part of this group, I want you to know that you don’t have to train like a professional athlete or fitness competitor.

Your workouts don’t have to be a certain length or a certain intensity level to count. You can still reach your goals even if you’re only working out for 20 minutes a day. Your workouts still count even if they don’t leave you super sore and drenched in sweat.

Don’t let the fitness professionals (and fitness “professionals”) that you follow on Instagram or YouTube convince you that you need to train like them in order to see progress.

I promise you, you don’t, and you probably shouldn’t. That’s their full-time job. Unless you’re planning to make a career shift and become a professional athlete in the near future, you don’t have to go to the same extremes as them to see progress.

End of rant.

Do you ever find yourself thinking that a workout only “counts” under certain conditions? What do you do to get out of this mindset? Let me know in the comments down below!

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