Are you the person at the gym who looks like you’ve lost a water balloon fight or the one who could have just gotten up from a nap? Just how intense are your workouts?

I’ll qualify that opening statement by admitting not every one perspires the same nor does everyone share the same fitness goals. Beginners need to begin carefully and post-injury exercisers need a slower-paced program. But, for the general fitness candidate, intensity is everything. It’s through higher intensities that real fitness progress is made.

Most of us don’t really push ourselves when it comes to exercise. We settle for routines that are more comfortable either because our thoughts are elsewhere or we just want to avoid “good hurt”. For those of us who are guilty of this, we have to remember: the path of least resistance will always be the path of least result.

Look at walking. All walks are not created equal. Power walking and strolling are not the same. While a casual meander on a trail or through the mall has its redeeming qualities, it’s shouldn’t be logged in as your biggest exercise achievement of the week. (Again, I qualify this for people who are healthy).

The adage of moving at a pace where you have the breathing ability to talk but not sing is an excellent measure for the beginning exerciser. The idea behind exercise, after all, is to challenge the body beyond its comfort zone. That’s how we see long-term health benefits.

The newest ACSM guidelines state 20 minutes of VIGOROUS exercise three times per week can lower systolic blood pressure, long-term. If you’re involved in a resistance training program and you’re walking, biking, swimming, etc… for 3 other days for 20 minutes a day, what a great health investment that would be! Of course, the key is vigorous exercise.

When you work out or run or walk tomorrow, take close note of how much effort you’re expending. Are you really pushing yourself? Are there water balloons?

Jeff Howerton is a trainer and owner of LEAN Personal Training and can be reached at

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