What makes a workout a workout?

Monday’s post about ‘2-a-day’ workouts generated a lot of comments. (Hooray, I love comments!)

what makes a workout a workout

Clearly we had a lot to say about this one!

While some of you agreed with me (yes, you can exercise too much), many of you shared that you regularly work out twice a day and don’t see anything wrong with it. (Double hooray, I love differing opinions!)


Thumbs up to differing opinions!

As I read through your comments, I realized that perhaps we’re not all in agreement about what a ‘workout’ entails.

If you spin in the morning and take a walk with your family in the evening, have you worked out twice in a day?

What about boot camp and yoga?

Or strength training followed by some treadmill time?

For me, a ‘workout’ has the following characteristics:
  • it’s a single session that may incorporate multiple fitness components, including cardio, strength training, balance, speed and agility, stretching and foam rolling
  • my level of intensity is significantly higher than any other time of the day; being sweaty and out of breath is a must
  • a workout requires that I wear exercise clothes; a long walk in my Fluevogs is not exercise FOR ME, just a part of daily active living

Because we all have different fitness levels and abilities, an activity that’s not a workout for you, may very well be a workout for me (and vice versa)!

Your turn. What makes a workout a workout to you?

Want to read more on the subject? Check out this recent article on Greatist.com (which I didn’t happen to see until just this morning, but makes some very good points too!)

Want to chat more? Make sure you’ve ‘liked’ my Facebook page to keep the conversation going!



  1. My definition is like yours.
    less the sweaty ๐Ÿ™‚ as Im a sweater but the attire.
    A stoll with the family in flipflops? not a workout.
    a powerwalk with a friend in full on fitness attire? WORKOUT!
    Miz recently posted…*I* am Egglandโ€™s Best.My Profile

  2. A workout for me is if I specifically went out to get either cardio/ weight training or both…..it could involve walking the dog but not all dog walks are considered workouts. Cleaning the house, gardening…..not considered workouts for me….burning calories yes! Are you sweating, only able talk in short sentences and sustained for 30 mins or more?….that’s a work out!

    • Sometimes housework feels like a workout; but perhaps that’s because I leave it too long between cleanings and end up spending hours scrubbing and mopping…

  3. If I’m breathing hard and sweating, and it exceeds 30 minutes, it’s a workout. Anything less, is an activity.
    Contemplative Fitness recently posted…Bombs awayโ€ฆMy Profile

  4. I agree – a family walk not a workout. I don’t count Zumba (for me – I spend half the time learning and laughing) as a workout.
    Boot camp – yep!!
    Running – yep!!
    I like each workout to be at least 45 minutes of hard work – sometimes it is a mix of cardio and strength and sometimes I do 2 separate workouts.
    Kim recently posted…Vein Stripping: A Final ReportMy Profile

    • Kim, I’m with you on Zumba. It takes me forever to figure out the moves; I never really manage to get my heart rate up enough for it to qualify as a workout. But belly laughs? Oh yes!

  5. If I get sweaty and have to plan around it, then it’s a workout. Semantics are funny – I do a lot of walks that I’d consider exercise, yet unless I sweat and pant, I wouldn’t call them a workout.
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted…6 Practical Fitness Tips for Older AdultsMy Profile

  6. I have never really been a 2-a-day workout person, but I am finding that I have been doing some of that lately just so I can get some running in early morning from home, then going to do some weights later on at my gym. I am finding that when I am working out on my own I need to get my workouts in early or they won’t get done. I just try to stay flexible so I can get my workouts done ๐Ÿ™‚
    Sarah Jane @Fit Betty recently posted…The SARAH Workout: Glutes and ThighsMy Profile

    • My concern would be how many days a week you’re doing both workouts. As long as you’re giving yourself adequate rest and fuelling properly, you’re probably okay on this schedule. Just watch for signs of over-doing it Sarah!

  7. I go for the sweat factor as well. I also think of a workout as a focused time on exercise. If I am chatting away with friends or family then no it is not a workout. If I am going on a powerwalk, yep that is a workout. Playing in the ocean and throwing my kids around in the water, not a workout…fun and healthy…but not a workout
    Stephanie Robbins recently posted…Total Training 4th of July SaleMy Profile

    • True. Focus and Jenny’s term ‘intensity’ really go hand in hand, don’t they. I love having kids as my excuse for being more active!

  8. I consider it a workout when my intention is just that, to workout – the gear, the DVD/WOD/mileage/etc., and the sweat. Biking while towing my kids around in the Chariot? Definitely hard work but not what I consider a workout ๐Ÿ™‚
    Jenny @ simply be me recently posted…The emotions of finishing the 30 Day Shred and a full marathonMy Profile

    • Good point, Jenny. Intention is an important component. It’s part of planning for the activity and revs you up to get the most out of it. Being a mom is the best antidote to a sedentary lifestyle; you NEVER get to sit down!

  9. I think intensity is key for a workout. I generally walk in the morning to get my blood flowing, but I don’t consider that my workout. If I was running that would be a different story.
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Weekend Update + WIAWMy Profile

  10. Well lordy the only workout I do is in the weight room. Everything else is just recreation – hiking, cycling, walking :).
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted…Workout Tunes without Wires: Freedom FoundMy Profile

    • Ha! And I know you’re not a cardio lover Suzanne, so your recreation is active recovery and relaxation, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Love the discussion! I think I put in my original post that my workouts are like yours – hard core all in one workout. ๐Ÿ™‚

    A walk leisure walk is not a workout for me & I am thinking is I decide to take yoga – a calming more stretching & breathing type yoga, that would not count as workout 2 for me.. it would be more for internal me & flexibility.. not sure how you feel on that from a trainers point of view.

    Loving your posts as always!!!

    I might add as a PS – some may not realize that 2 hard core workouts in a day are too much until repetitive stress happens & an injury results…
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…I AM ENOUGH & My No Face Pictures PLUS an Under Armour #Fitgear Giveaway!My Profile

    • I think for you, stretching and yoga would definitely not be workouts, but complementary to your hard core strength sessions. You might even find that you recover faster!

      And tell me about RSI’s…. I am dealing with one right now ๐Ÿ™

  12. I have a history of overtraining so I made a mandate that I take 2 rest days a week no matter what. I only work out once a day (unless I biked to work, then I do two, obviously, to bike home!) but I am super active. I sometime go for walks during my lunch break, or do something else that is active. I don’t really count those as a real workout.
    Lisa recently posted…After 12 Weeks…My Profile

  13. I agree with you. Taking a walk with the family is not a workout. A brisk walk can be if you push yourself enough to break a sweat (and need a shower afterward!). I think doing two workouts in one day can work if you are working different things. A run and a strength workout. A bike ride and yoga. But repeating the same type of workout (two types of cardio workouts in one day for example) can set you on a road to injury. And any double workout, if you’re pushing through a lot of aches and pains, or other symptoms of overtraining, can lead to problems.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Vegan Food on the Road, Cross Country, & Costume Party Run UpdateMy Profile

  14. I agree with your definition. I think it comes down to the level of intensity of the activity which plays into what you wear. The verdict on 2adays is still out. I think it can be done safely, or so I’ve read. Great topic.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted…Runners, Stop Stretching!My Profile

  15. For me it’s kind of about the sweat and the clothes. If I do it in jeans, not a workout. Something stretchy and tight? Definitely a workout! Ha ha. I sometimes get those double workout days but I try not to double up on what I’m working. i.e. cardio and weights is cool, 2x cardio not so much…
    Nikki recently posted…Throwback Thursday: Playing on the trails…My Profile

    • Nikki, I laughed at your comment because just last month a woman came into my gym wearing jeans, full on face makeup and a whole whack of heavy gold jewelry. I can’t imagine working out like that (although the weight of the gold alone must have been somewhat of a workout!)

  16. I completely agree with your definition of a workout. Especially with the sweat part. If my heart rate isn’t raised…it’s not a workout in my mind. And I have to at least have on a sports bra. I rarely work out at home, but when I do, I always put at least a sports bra to go with my pajama bottoms. lol
    Kimberly {Manifest Yourself} recently posted…My life 7.12 + Fitness SurveyMy Profile

    • Love the ‘sports bra’ requirement. And I totally agree; no jumping around without the girls (small as they are) fully contained! Here’s to working out in your PJ’s! LOL!