The difference between exercise and training

The difference between exercise and training

In my 18 years working as an exercise physiologist, and now as a health promotion coordinator, I have witnessed many people working out in gyms at multiple bases. For the most part, there are two types: Those who exercise and those who train. Though often used interchangeably, exercise and training are vastly different.

Exercise is what happens when you go to the gym and do exactly the same thing you did the last time you went to the gym. Perhaps a Body Bar class, some cardio, weight training or any other randomized program. These activities are performed for one reason: the effect they produce for you today, right now. Screwing around in the gym is merely punching the ticket — you showed up, moved some stuff around, got sweaty, tired, and maybe out of breath, but you did the same thing Friday as on Wednesday, and now that you think of it, the same thing you did Monday. 

Look in your notebook and ask yourself these questions: How long have I been able to add weight on a weekly or even monthly basis to my squats, tricep pressdowns, shoulder presses, lunges, dumbbell rows, and lat pulldowns? Regarding the 1.5 mile run, are you bothering to time yourself EACH time you run and striving to improve? You don’t wait for the mock PT test to find out what your run time is, you should KNOW each time you run.

If you need to improve your pushups/situps, are you striving to increase your numbers each time you attempt, or are you just mindlessly doing the same thing over and over? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re exercising. If you’re more concerned about playing the right song, checking your FB or Twitter accounts on your phone, you are exercising. 

Training results in long-term progress in a specific direction, with checkspoint along the way. Exercise gets you tired, sweaty and satisfies the desire for a feeling of accomplishment for people who are easily satisfied. 

It must be said that not everybody is interested in training. For many, exercise is good enough, and there’s nothing wrong with that if you do not have any goals. They just want to burn some calories, get a little conditioning work, and have better abs. This is fine, but the second you want more — when you decide that there will now be a goal to accomplish with all this gym time — you’ve graduated to training.

It is important to understand that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the very definition of Insanity. Why are you expecting your body to change when you are not continually placing greater demands upon it? 

It appears to me that those who have this mindset are simply going through the motions, giving exercises the same enthusiasm they give to washing dishes. This lackluster shuffle around the gym is what I would categorize as exercise. This “failure to train with a sufficient level of focus and intensity is the greatest obstacle to developing the results most profess to be seeking” (S. Phillips) 

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for anything that elevates heart rate and gets you off your butt. For some, this is all that they might be capable of at the moment. 

But one of the biggest differences between training and exercising is that training is not an obligation that requires great discipline; training is powered by a vision. A vision to improve whether it be running faster, more sit ups/pushups, getting stronger or losing fat. 

Once this difference is understood, that is when a real change can be made. 

For more information, email darrin.muhr@us.af.mil or call 801-586-6019.

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