First and foremost, exercise is great. It is well understood that the benefits of exercise are numerous. I will get into these benefits in an upcoming blog as a matter of fact. When I decided to write this blog out I realized I was in the middle of planning out some of my clients offseason and preseason training, as well as my own offseason. I started to think about the people I see exercising at the gym doing the same things each day, each week, each month, etc. I don’t see any change or variance in their training. I guess if they’re happy doing this then good for them, but there’s no way I could do that. I used to but those days are long gone for me. So this first blog is going to discuss the difference between exercising and training.
One of the biggest differences between exercising and training is the programming. If you are a power lifter you will never succeed just exercising. Sprinters don’t get faster by just exercising. I’ve run two half marathons (which I will never do again) and I had to train for them. I planned out my strategy and executed it. Training for whatever your event happens to be takes thought….a lot of thought. You have to plan out your phases weeks, months and even years in advance. Lots of research goes into planning out your training. You don’t just sit down for a half hour and plan out your process. Successful programs are carefully constructed. It isn’t just scribble on a piece of paper/computer. You are making a commitment to something you want to accomplish. Writing out your training process means you understand and accept the responsibilities to come with the training. You are adhering to the pain (yes, I said pain), physical and psychological, that you will most likely have to endure to accomplish this goal. You understand and accept that your diet and rest habits will likely have to change. The process can be excruciating but you understand this and you accept this. Exercise doesn’t require you to do much accept show up.
Another difference between exercising and training is the endpoint. The endpoint is the payoff for all your blood, sweat and tears. When planning your training you mark the event(s) on your calendar. Some are weeks out, others are months and some are years out. Training for an event, like the Olympics, is a commitment that most of us don’t understand. This a life consuming goal that one simply cannot exercise for. Programming out for four years of training, nutrition, rest/recovery, etc. is an extremely daunting task. Imagine planning out the next four years of your life. Try planning out just six months of training and see how difficult that is. Professional golfers mark the four majors on their calendars as their endpoints. They are trying to being as explosive and anatomically in sink as possible so that they can make the best swings possible for the four biggest tournaments they play in all year. This often times means not being a peak performance for the in-between tournaments and accepting this process. Both of these types of training, different as they may be, have checkpoints along the way to ensure the training is on point and that progress is being made toward the ultimate goal. Exercise, on the other hand, has no endpoint. It is just continuous. There is not an official checkpoint other than your pants fitting you properly or finally seeing some abs (although, this a worthy checkpoint.)
So that I’m not misunderstood here, I’m not saying exercise is bad and not worth doing. It’s just not training. Everyone should exercise. If you have nothing, at least in your mind, to train for then by all means, just go to the gym and do something to make your bones stronger and heart healthier. Keep this thought in mind when you are merely exercising, your job is something that you should train for. How can one train for a desk job? Don’t think of it as improving your ability to sit at your desk. Think of it as training to overcome the issues that come from sitting at your desk: tight hip flexors, rounded shoulders, forward neck syndrome, etc. We all have to work, unless our last name is Gates, so we will inevitably have ergonomic issues (expect an article about ergonomics and how it is the real enemy.)
If we quit looking at our time in the gym as just exercise and start looking at it as training, perhaps our results will be greater. We all have something we can be training for…something that can keep us motivated to push ourselves to greater heights. If all you can do is just exercise then fine, but that will usually lead to mediocre results. If you decide you want to train then accept the responsibility, adhere to the guidelines you lay out for yourself and watch the results exceed what you originally hoped for.