{the life} What Makes for a Great Workout

by Rachel on April 17, 2012

rachel yoga bagMy yoga class last night was fantastic. As I was packing up my things, as I was driving home, as I was chatting with Eric, I just kept thinking one thing: Wow. What a great workout. And that made me think…what actually do I mean when I say that a workout was great?

I’ve been thinking about it some more and I’ve come up with a list of the characteristics that define a good workout for me.

Rhythm. A good workout starts when I feel like the class is in sync and moving with the same rhythm. I think this is why workout music has always been important to me, whether I was running alone, teaching a spin class, or doing Core Fusion. It sets the tone, yes, but it also makes it easier pace yourself and to anticipate the next move or change. Most of the yoga classes at my studio are free of music, but it really is true that sometimes the class moves with a collective breath. Even if there’s no music, everyone inhaling and hitting her upward-facing dog at the same time makes me feel like we have rhythm and I love that.

Good people. Other people can take a workout from mediocre to awesome. Some days it’s a fun instructor who keeps everyone laughing; other days it’s a class filled with people that I just feel connected to for one reason or another. And sometimes it’s just being able to be solo when I want to brainstorm alone or work through something.

Achievement. Sure, we never want things to be easy, but there are workouts when the achievement is just getting through the door. Then there are workouts when the challenges feel overwhelming. But the best workouts for me are the ones when it’s just like “Challenge accepted.” When something seems difficult — or actually is difficult — and I do it anyway, I walk away feeling really strong and proud of myself.

Release. Release is when I get lost in the workout and start to play to my edges a bit more. It’s like something else just takes over and I push through without even asking myself first. I usually know I’m there when I find myself cheering, whooping, or just exhaling with a huge force after I’ve pushed through a really tough moment. When the workout is over and I have that sort of JBF hair/look on my face and I feel like I lost control during the workout a bit…yep. That’s release.

Flow. If release comes from letting yourself get lost in the moment, flow is about being totally present. I first became aware of the concept of flow when I was running a lot, training for the Disney Marathon. Flow is, to me, the most special and the most elusive thing I’m after when I’m working out. It’s that moment when I’m not concerned with anything but the present; I lose track of time because I’m truly enjoying myself in the moment and everything feels easy. I don’t even think “I don’t want this to end” because I’m not even thinking about the fact that it could end. It doesn’t happen very often when I’m working out, but when I hit a state of flow, it’s amazing.

That’s my list, but I’d love to hear yours! What defines a great workout for you?