You head to the gym, put in your time on the treadmill, run through a few sets of strength-training moves, and go back home. You’ve been consistent, but lately your training has stalled or, maybe, you’re still waiting for visible signs of progress to kick in. When it comes to adopting a fit lifestyle, lacing up your sneakers and getting in any old workout isn’t always enough. Too easy and it could result in nothing more than valuable time wasted. “There’s a difference between tough training and just going through the motions,” says Fitbit Coach and certified personal trainer Adrian Richardson. “If you’re not pushing yourself, you’re spinning your wheels.”
Worried your workouts are falling short? Run through this expert-curated list of common clues, see where you stand, and readjust according to your training goals.
Sign #1: You’re Not Sweating
When it comes to gauging how hard you’re working, you might feel like you’re giving it your all. But if small breaks are becoming prolonged or if you find yourself moseying at a leisurely pace more often than not, ask yourself one question: Are you perspiring? “If you didn’t break a sweat, you’re not raising your body temperature high enough, which means you probably aren’t pushing enough,” says Fitbit Local Ambassador and personal trainer Jon Cerf.
Monitor your heart rate and aim to keep it in a set intensity range or “zone” that corresponds to your fitness goal. Fitbit trackers with PurePulse heart rate tracking take the guesswork out of the equation by using your maximum heart rate—the highest number of times your heart can safely beat in a minute—to set your heart rate zones for you. Giving yourself a visible heart rate range to reach for will help prevent you from cruising down easy street. Here’s a rundown of how fast you’ll want to, well, run, based on your goals:
Intensity: Vigorous (85 to 100 percent of your max heart rate)
Benefit: Increases performance speed
Intensity: Hard (70 to 84 percent of your max hr)
Benefit: Builds cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength
Intensity: Moderate (50 to 69 percent of your max hr)
Benefit: Builds aerobic endurance and teaches the body to burn fat as fuel
Sign #2: There’s A Premium On Phone Time
When you’re working out, mobile devices should be used minimally. “Rest between sets is need, but when you’re looking at your phone more than actually moving weight, your workout is probably too easy,” says Cerf. When you’re logging miles or getting in steps, texting or even just reading a text on your phone can throw off your balance and put your safety at risk.
Simple Fix :
Instead of spending time texting or surfing Instagram, stay in the moment. Use your rest period between sets to stretch tight muscles, track your progress on your Fitbit device, or challenge yourself by adding in another exercise immediately after for a superset. Resist the temptation to text by pairing your Fitbit Ionic or Fitbit Versa with your Fitbit Flyer headphones to get tunes without relying on your phone.
Sign #3: Every Rep Feels Easy
If you’ve made it to the end of your weight-lifting set without struggling on any rep, you’re going too light. Strength training is meant to overload your muscles so that tissue breaks down and then repairs and rebuilds stronger. Throwing around a weight that doesn’t produce some tension will leave your progress at a standstill.
Simple Fix :
Reach for a weight that’s heavy enough for your muscles to adapt and grow stronger, but one that still allows you to maintain proper form—whether that means keeping your elbows by your side (and not letting them flare out) during curls, keeping a flat back on deadlifts, or pushing your butt back on squats. “You want every rep to be somewhat challenging,” says Richardson. “If you’re doing a set of 12 reps, the difficulty should start kicking in around the eighth repetition.”
Sign #4: You’re Never Sore After Workouts
“Soreness isn’t always the only indicator of effort, but if you workout regularly and never get sore then you aren’t mixing things up enough,” says Cerf.
Simple Fix :
Crank up your workouts by adding some variety to your routine. Cerf recommends three simple ways to change things up:
1. Vary Sets and Reps
Instead of doing 3 sets of 12 reps at a lighter weight, add on a few pounds and aim for 5 sets of 3 reps. By bumping up the weight but toning down the reps, you’ll stress different tissue and get a more well-rounded lifting session. Change phases every six to eight weeks to keep things fresh.
2. Change Up Time Under Tension
Altering the duration for which you hold a contraction can help maximize your workout. “If you do biceps curls and hold for a five count at the top of each rep instead of just doing normal curls, you’ll crank up the intensity,” says Cetf. Isolating your muscles will really add a burn to the exercise.
3. Limit Rest Periods
You don’t always have to alter sets and reps to increase intensity. Instead, try limiting your rest. Instead of waiting 60 seconds between sets, give your body only 30 or 45 seconds to recover between rounds.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.