Here to break hearts: Sweating isn’t always the best indicator of a good workout

September 01, 2019 at 12:01PM by CWC

If feet are measured in inches, then workouts must be measured in sweat… right? Wrong. Up until this morning, I firmly believed that the size of pit stains on my shirts post-exercise directly correlated with the quality of my sweat session. After listening to trainer Sal Di Stefano on the Mind Pump podcast, however, the very ground upon which I stand on (and sweat on) has been shaken. Because, everyone, perspiration does not effective fitness make.


All three podcast hosts chimed in with a resounding “hell no” when a listener wrote in with the question, “Does getting sweaty mean you are getting good results?”

“The workout has to be appropriate for whatever goals that you have—and if that means that you’re not sweating during the workout, that’s okay. But the sweat—or lack thereof—doesn’t mean that what you did [was or] wasn’t effective,” explained Di Stefano.

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According to the trainer, the liters of sweat you’re left with after a run, hike, or bicycle ride really only tell you how acclimated you are to the current climate. There happen to be about 1.1 million other ways to determine if a workout is effective, but the current moistness of your skin just isn’t one. Di Stefano gives the example of training high weight at low repetitions. “[This type of training] can build muscle. It can boost your metabolism. It can give a nice look to your physique and body by giving you more of that solid look… That doesn’t make you sweat that much,” he explains.

The word “effective” isn’t a catch all; it looks different depending on your preferred workout modality. If you’re stretching, the effective outcome is feeling stretched out. If you’re running, it’s to become a better runner and get a cardiovascular workout. If you’re weight training, your goal might be to get stronger. Sweating isn’t an objective. It’s sometimes a byproduct or a side-effect of a sweat sesh (and it can be so. satisfying.), but it’s not the be-all, end-all measure of a workout that delivers.

The takeaway here that when you feel like you can’t sweat your way over your current fitness plateau, it might be time to switch things up. “You need to judge the effectiveness of your workouts based on the actual results you’re looking for,” says the trainer. That means, before you lace up and throw your gym bag over your shoulder, make sure your goals for the effort ahead are clear to you. Then, track your progress over time to see if said goals are becoming gains. Sweat—or no sweat.

If your goal is to run a marathon, here’s exactly how to do it. If you prefer to power walk, start with these killer treadmill workouts

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Author Kells McPhillips | Well and Good
Selected by CWC