Let's be real for a second: New fitness routines can be the worst. And sometimes it's difficult to tell if they're actually working.
So it's not a surprise when people give up on a new workout regimen because they're not getting the transformation they set out to achieve. Results can be slow, plateaus happen, and unexpected days off can feel like real setbacks.
But, truthfully, sometimes the most positive changes aren't the ones you can see in a mirror. We consulted experts on the subtle signs your new workout routine is doing its job. Check out the advice below:
1. You're pushing yourself.
This one is a bit obvious, but it's important to pay attention to your body's physical reaction to exercise, according to Micah Zuhl, an assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences at Central Michigan University.
If your heart rate is elevated and you worked up a sweat, you're likely doing something right. This means you're pushing your body's limits, which leads to healthy improvement and change, Zuhl says.
"The more challenging the workout, the longer these physiological markers remain elevated post-exercise," he told The Huffington Post. "It causes more disruption to the body, so it takes longer to recover, and it takes more energy to recover." And more exerted energy = More results.
2. You're focused on quality.
Here's some good news: You can ditch those multiple two-hour sweat sessions at the gym for a quicker routine, like a round of high intensity interval training (HIIT). As certified personal trainer Keri Lynn Ford explains, a good workout is about what type of exercise you do, not how long you do it.
"The intensity of activity should dictate the amount of time you spend ... While variety is key, the goal is to work out harder in a shorter amount of time," she wrote in a HuffPost blog.
3. You're sleeping like a baby.
Exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand, since research shows physical activity can improve your quality of sleep. So, if you're working out properly, you're likely getting a good night's rest later on. And that can enhance your health goals: Studies suggest sleep can help curb weight gain and boost your immune system.
4. You're incorporating interval training.
HIIT workouts are a gold standard for a reason. Any activity that incorporates bursts of high-intensity exercise can be effective -- and not just for losing weight, Zuhl says.
Zuhl suggests performing a challenging one-minute exercise move (say, burpees) followed by a two-minute recovery period. Then repeat the cycle three to four times.
"This will provide a nice spike in intensity and change things up," he explained. Try these simple HIIT workouts if you're looking for a few ways to get started.
5. You're constantly switching things up.
Zuhl says that variability is key to seeing progress. He recommends trying HIIT workouts, new fitness classes, signing up for races or doing any activity that helps keep you engaged. Just make sure you're sticking with some kind of physical exertion on a regular basis.
"The key to an exercise routine is variety, but most of all consistency," he said. "If you are able to perform scheduled exercise five days per week, then you more than likely will meet your fitness goals."
Workout results, achieved.
If you enjoyed our Move More, Feel Better Challenge, we invite you to join us for our next 30-day challenge. We don’t know what you do for a living, but we do know you likely need a break. And, nearly halfway through the year, we’re challenging you (yes — busy, overworked, financially stretched you) to #TakeABreak.
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