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What is a workout?

When I first started as a personal trainer I learned that what people consider a “good workout” is totally based on their preferences. Some need a big sweat, others want to feel sore the next day, others want to feel the burn…it just depends on the person.

Recently though, a client of mine made me realize something: Most of us tack a bunch of prerequisites onto what they consider a “good” workout - essentially making it harder to stick to a steady exercise routine to stay healthy.

What do I mean by that? Let me explain.


Let me add some context to the conversation with the client I mentioned above. She had been trying to work out 5 times a week and we had gotten her into a good routine. She had a variety of fitness modalities she enjoyed and found herself feeling confident.

But then her boyfriend of 3 years broke up with her. No matter what she did, she couldn’t get herself to stay consistent with her fitness habits.

“I only worked out once this week!” she exclaimed. But what she wasn’t paying attention to were her emotional needs.

My advice? To work with where she is now, and have faith that when she heals emotionally, her energy will return and she’ll be better able to stick to her original habits.

We talked about options for things she could do to find her way back to feeling like herself, and I made the suggestion to take a walk after work.

She rolled her eyes when I said that; she was resistant to the idea that walking is a form of exercise. I knew she had recently been to Disney, so I asked her if she felt like she exercised then - and she said No. (But I don’t know about you, after 8 hours walking around anywhere- amusement parks included- my legs start to feel it!)

Then we discussed some of the prerequisites she had subconsciously attached to her workouts. This was her list.

Workouts have to be:

  • Hard

  • Uncomfortable

  • Sweaty

  • 1 hour

  • 5x/week

She had made so many rules for herself that working out now felt like it was filled with this negative energy. So we talked about different exercise experiences she’s had, like hiking - she had recently gone for a 3 hour hike. I asked her if THAT was a workout, and she said, Maybe. Then we talked about when she used to ice skate - was that a workout? She said, Kinda.

She was getting confused. Her experiences hiking and skating brought her joy, so in her mind, it didn’t feel like a workout. But she also couldn’t deny the energetic expenditure.

We spent the next couple weeks expanding her understanding of what Exercise is, and now she is back to 5 times a week, and even has had a few days when she worked out twice in the same day! She had found her way back to valuing all forms of exercise, and recognizing there’s more than one way to keep your body moving and healthy.


What do you believe the function of exercise is?

Most people say to lose weight, be healthy, or stay functional. But a lot of the time, when we think about a “good workout,” we subconsciously add so many extra prerequisites that we set ourselves up to fail (or not enjoy the experience at all).

There are so many different modalities you can use to exercise. I can attest that my body feels way more depleted after 6 hours of hiking than it does after 1-2 hours of intense circuit training at the gym. But is one method better?

That’s a trick question! Neither is better because it’s not a competition! What matters is, both methods of exercise allow me to expend energy in a way that will promote weight loss, keep me healthy, and maintain functionality.

But we all fall into this trap of ranking our exercise and setting up parameters that are impossible for us to meet. We work against ourselves as we try to do something for ourselves…that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Exercise or working out is about expending energy. It doesn’t have to fit into a specific box with a bunch of prerequisites.

It doesn’t have to be miserable.

It doesn’t have to be a chore.

If you can expand your definition of exercise to be “Intentional energy expenditure,” then exercising is the same whether you’re hiking, having a dance party, doing yoga, ice skating, walking, cleaning, or anything else that gets your blood pumping. (For the whole list of how to move your body in a fun way email me HERE)

It’s really how we think about exercise that gets us stuck.


How we think about our healthy habits influences the likelihood that we’ll stay consistent and create a routine of these healthy habits. But when we set such specific parameters around what it means to work out, no wonder we struggle!

We make exercise a chore by having thoughts like:

  • I have to ________

  • I can’t eat ________

  • I should _______

It’s how we think about fitness that either makes us successful or makes it a chore. So instead of “should-ing” yourself, “can’t-ing”, or telling yourself what you have to do, CHOOSE to recognize you’re the authority and select different language around working out that doesn’t make it feel like a chore.

If you feel empowered, confident, and energized when you workout, don’t think, I SHOULD workout. Think, I WANT to workout so I can feel empowered, confident, and energized!

If you notice you’re more interactive with your kids and more considerate of your partner’s stressors when you eat a healthier meal, don’t think, I HAVE to eat healthy. Think, I CHOOSE to eat healthy so I can show up as the parent and spouse I want to be.

You see, our brain craves pleasure. Thinking negatively about our healthy habits, or setting such specific prerequisites to check the workout box will cause you to work against yourself.

Instead, choose to change the narrative. Find ways to be intentional about expending energy in ways that make you feel GOOD. Use specific language so that your brain will work with you. CHOOSE to work with yourself and empower yourself as you grow into the person you want to be.



  • Dance your heart out to 2 of your favorite songs

  • Strength: Repeat 2x

    • Max Push-Ups for 1 minute

    • Max lunges for 1 minute each leg

  • Dance your heart out to 2 new songs

  • Strength: Repeat 2x:

    • Hold a 1 minute plank

    • Max hip bridges for 1 minute each leg

3-2-1 (cut time in half for a 30sec workout)

  • 10 min of moderate cardio

  • 10 min of strength

  • 10 min of HIIT

  • 10 min of strength

  • 10 min of moderate cardio

  • 10 min of core


  • Walk 5 blocks

  • Max squats for 1 min —> rest for 30 seconds

    • Repeat 3 x

  • Walk 5 more blocks

  • Max tricep dips for 1 min—> rest for 30 seconds

    • Repeat 3x

  • Walk 5 more blocks

  • Max jumping jax for 1 min—> rest 30 seconds

    • Repeat 3x

Did you try these workouts? What’s your favorite way to move your body? Share with me and your fitness community - creating connections with other people who value fitness and like to work out is a great way to keep you on track. YOU GOT THIS!

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