Frequently, I give my online personal training clients short workouts. I do this for a variety of reasons and I always share them with my clients, but no matter what I tell them, they always ask me if they should do more work.

When I client asks for more work after a session is complete, I know I haven’t done a good job explaining the purpose of training.

For decades, we’ve been told to believe that a good workout results in being tired. We’re pushed this narrative in dozens of ways, but you only need look around at a typical gym’s wall art to know this. In almost every gym I’ve been in there is some saying on the wall about how great you’re doing if you’re sweaty, exhausted, and in pain. Some gyms have images of people collapsed on the floor demonstrating to their members what their standard of a good workout is.

Let me tell you a secret. Being tired and having a good workout are completely unrelated.

Sometimes a good workout will leave you tired, but that is not always the case and it’s certainly not the measure I use to determine the effectiveness of the workout.

A good workout results in you getting better.

Better means different things to different people at different times, but it always implies you are improving yourself in the future. Better might mean you will be stronger tomorrow than you are today, you have more endurance next month than you do right now, or your hormone profile will look better in 6 months than it did yesterday.

Making “better” the goal of your workout will completely change the way you workout.

First, it forces you to clearly identify your goal. Different goals require different approaches. A bodybuilding program will not help you train for a 5k. I know that seems obvious, but you’d be shocked at what people tell me they are doing to train for their goals.

Once you have a clearly stated goal, you can create a long-term program that will help you reach that goal. You can make sure you’re improving in the right ways to get you closer to your goal on a daily basis and you can avoid the biggest pitfall of all: doing things that move you away from your goals because your friends found this new instructor and this new class was so much fun or whatever.

With your plan in hand, you simply have to follow it. Some workouts will be long, others will be short. Some will help you recover while others are intended to break you down so you can come back stronger another day. Some workouts will make you tired, but others won’t and that doesn’t matter.

Being tired is not the mark of a good workout. Improving is.

There is nothing wrong with being tired from a workout if that workout helped you get closer to your goal. Making sure you’re tired after every workout because you think that is what’s required is a guaranteed way to slow your progress and hold yourself back.

The next time you have the urge to do more, consider why you want the extra work. Is it because the extra work will actually help you improve or is it just so you can go home exhausted. Think about it and decide what will help you reach your goal sooner.