The Difference Between Exercise and Training

 In Blog

All of the workouts that my clients experience are aspects of a training program. People often used the words to describe training interchangeably, such as

“I’m going to workout today”

“Going to get some exercise in”

“I have (insert some weird and corky corporate gym class name) tonight!”

While people like to throw the terms around, there is quite a difference between training and exercise. Let me explain.

A training program is a designed plan, it’s almost a blueprint to achieve some sort of feat of human performance.  For instance, if someone wanted to get from Point A to Point B in training, you design a training program to get them there in a certain period of time. This creates accountability and works as a source of motivation; after each workout you should be that closer to your goal.

However most people kind of jump around in this process of planning. Most will jump off the couch and exclaim that they want to do a half marathon. That’s good, but it’s hard to develop a program off of that. For one, why do you want to run a half-marathon? What’s that going to do for you? Do you want to be able to finish and do you have a time that you want to complete the marathon in? A good example would be “I want to complete a half marathon in  95 minutes.”  Saying you want to do a half marathon is similar to saying “I want to go to college” or “I want a job.” I hope you just wouldn’t show up on campus one day with a dazed look on your face.  You would have enrolled in a major and had an exact schedule of classes leading you to  graduation (it’s okay though if that four year degree turns into a six year degree….I’ve been done that road before).

That’s exactly what training is.  We set up a specialty designed program that has an end goal in design, and this is what differentiates it from exercise.  Exercise is simply an activity; it’s what you choose to do that day.  This is why gyms can sit back and count their cash because they know people will buy a membership based on the simple impulse that they want to feel good.  For the most part, exercise is fun and people treat it like going to the movies or hanging out with friends.  Which is fine, but you need to understand the trade off here: which is that exercise will get you zero results because there is no plan in place.

What usually separates the serious from the non-serious is the adherence to a training program.  Keep in mind that by training program there is a comprehensive layout of movements, repetitions, rest, sets, loading, deloads, and peak periods.   So while exercise people change what they do whenever they feel like it, trainees understand that they are in a phase of their training program.  So an exerciser will drop out when:

-The intensity of the program increases (“It’s too hard!”)

-There are recovery workouts in place (“It’s too easy!”)

-There’s too much consistency (“I’m bored)

-Results come and people freak out (“I don’t want to get too strong/too big/ too whatever”)

Lastly, a training program bases everything on things that are measurable.  This scares a lot of people, because as much money and time that people spend on training, most do not want to know their current fitness level.   Think about it: how many people go to great lengths to avoid the scale? I’ve literally had clients who wanted to wear a parka and snow pants during an assessment. For some strange reason, we decide that our numbers in the gym (weight, levels of strength, etc.) dictate who we are as a person; it’s similar to taking a test in grade school.  However, to get better you need to know where you’re currently at.

I’ve been in the game long enough to know that training is not for everyone. In fact, if given the choice, most would prefer to exercise. However if you have a specific goal in mind, you better get the pen and notebook out and start planning.


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