People who are not professional athletes still have legitimate goals for their workouts. In the face of pressing work schedules or family obligations, it can be difficult to determine how much time to put into your workout schedule. It is easy to overdo it at times, or compromise and do short little workouts that make you wonder if it is really “worth it” to go out the door at all, given the time and preparation necessary to get a workout in.
The tug of time is especially difficult if you’re a cyclist or triathlete. Those sports require a lot of equipment and preparation. Depending on weather and other factors, it can take a half hour just to get ready to ride, much less drive to a pool for a swim workout.
Here are 7 quick measures to tell you whether your next workout is “worth it” in terms of time, aerobic or strength benefit, and meeting your goals:
#1: You’re too excited about working out to skip it
When you’re enthusiastic, it shows that you have energy to accomplish other pressing things even after you’ve worked out. When you’re mentally tired or ambivalent about whether you work out or not, it’s usually a sign that other elements of your life are out of balance. But if you’re excited and drawn to the very idea of getting a workout in, go do it! You’ll be in good stead when you get back.
#2: You’re going to meet others to work out.
Having that commitment to meet other people and fulfill your obligation of being there for them is a great way to measure the value of a workout. There are days when your own energy may be ebbing, but the presence of others can lift you into shape. That’s called being part of a team.
#3: The workout meets a prescribed goal.
If you map out a plan and stick to your goals, then any workout that helps meet those prescribed plans is worth doing. Some days you might not hit your target pace on an interval workout or doing climbs on the bike, but the workout still meets the criteria of a prescribed course of action, so it is worth doing.
#4: You’re already in your gear when your training partners don’t show
If you’re ready to do a workout and your friends let you down by not showing up, for God’s sake use that frustration and energy and do your own workout. They may have legitimate reasons because we all run into snags now and then. Go run. Go Ride. Go Swim. You’re ready to go.
#5: It’s cold. It’s raining. It sucks outside. But you still want to work out.
Sure, you can stay indoors and do a ride on the trainer or run on the treadmill. That’s all good. But sometimes it pays to go out when the weather’s really crappy because 9 out of 10 times it’s not as bad out as you think. But if it is, you’ll be proud of yourself for getting through adversity and that builds confidence, and a reputation as a Hard Ass. “You went out last night? “ a friend might say. “I stayed in and had a beer instead.” You: “Yeah, well. That’s why I’m going to kick your ass this spring.”
#6: No one else can do your workout for you.
It’s a fact. Sometimes you have to suck it up and go out and do it. You may be tired from a commute or recognizing that dinner might not be as nicely made if you go out and run, ride or swim, but your workouts depend on you doing them. That’s a good enough reason most days to get out the door.
#7: You’re not going to let anyone else dictate what constitutes a good workout, and what does. That’s right. It’s easy to let others convince you that riding for only an hour isn’t worth it. Or that a 3-mile run is not worth the trouble. But experience tells you there is plenty to gain in getting out the door even if you don’t have 2-3 hours to dedicate to endurance training. There’s always someone willing to do more than you in terms of volume or quality. But what matters is what’s right for you.
While filling up at a local gas station recently, I noticed a fellow cyclist who lives down the block from me. He’s a Cat 3 racer with a long, lean frame and a deep knowledge of cycling and training. It was 10 minutes to 6:00 pm and the September light was already fading, but I wandered over and told him, “I think I’m still going to try riding tonight.”
“Not me,” he responded. “There’s not enough light. I’m hitting the trainer tonight.”
We talked a bit more and he confessed that he did not think a ride less than two hours was worth his time.
I went home and changed into cycling gear as quick as I could, filled up a water bottle and put my helmet on and got 20 miles of riding in before it got dark. My average speed was 19.2 on a hilly course on a windy day. I broke a record on one Strava segment and raised my position on another
All in all it was a satisfying ride highlighted by a rosy sunset and a display of clouds to the East that my eyes soaked in with pleasure.
And it was definitely worth it. Most definitely.