Training Vs. Exercising

After a nice vacation to the east coast with my wife and kids, I am back with another little blog for you. It was good to get out and hit the reset button, not worry about lifting weights, and allowing my body to heal up, but the ideas were always churning. It was a short flight to Boston (my kids were awesome on the plane), but it allowed me to think about some of the observations that I’ve made in the decade I’ve worked in this field.


Training vs. Exercising.
There is a big difference here between the above terms. Before I define each, I’d like to point something out.
Most people come into the gym without much of a game plan. They don’t typically know exactly what they’re going to be doing that particular day. This is a setup for failure and a great bridge to the definition of the term, Exercise.

I always use the definition used by Mark Rippetoe, who is a world renowned strength coach, author of many books, including “Starting Strength”, which helped me get my start with lifting many years ago, and an accomplished powerlifter.

Exercise is activity performed for the effect that it produces today-right now.”

Basically, when people are simply exercising, it is only so that they can feel the burn in the moment, to sweat, to be sore the next day. It fulfills a mental need to feel a sense of accomplishment. Here is the part that I tell you that this is why I don’t do Crossfit. (And yes, I’ve tried it.) It is simply exercise. There is no end goal in mind or specificity..  Some people are fine with this notion of not having any specific, long-term health goals, but I need to train with purpose.  I train to get stronger after 10-12-week training cycles.  Everything that I do during these cycles will lead me to a better squat, bench, deadlift, and press. I will always say that Crossfit is good in the sense that it gets people to be active and Olympic lifting is fantastic if taught right, but there are better ways to lose weight, get stronger, get faster, etc. It takes something more specific.  Even elite level Crossfitters don’t perform Crossfit to train for their events.  It’s very common, in fact, that they follow Conjugate Powerlifting templates to achieve their levels of strength to compete on the world stage.

If I’m not working on a long term goal and only focusing on the current workout I’m performing, there is no point. After consuming all of the seafood in the Atlantic Ocean last week, my current focus going into winter is fat loss. Having said that, my workouts have shifted in the direction of that goal. The end result will be competing in the 181lb weight class in my next powerlifting meet instead of 198lbs.

Staying focused on a long-term goal will keep a commitment to the work that it takes to get there. Plus, more often than not, people achieve what I call “sub-goals” along their way. These keep you going! That’s why I tell my clients to embrace the journey!


Enter Training (and another Rippetoe definition, because he’s the man)

Training is physical activity performed for purposes of satisfying a long-term performance goal, and is therefore about the process instead of the constituent workouts of the process.”

If someone has specific goals when it comes to fitness, there needs to be more customization, rather than following cookie cutter programs or wandering from machine to machine without any purpose other than to perform an exercise because they haven’t done it in a while. A person looking to lose weight needs to emphasize larger, multi-joint movements such as squats, presses and deadlifts. I guarantee that I can find a version of each compound movement for every person of every fitness level and ability. I have clients that are of all ages and abilities and every single one of them will tell you that they squat, press, and deadlift (and love it). These lifts build metabolism-stoking lean mass that simply running on a treadmill wishes it could do! They also have a world of benefits in terms of improving balance, flexibility, and torso (core) strength. These lifts can be accompanied with more isolative complementary lifts later on in the workout. Think of it as a pyramid with the base of it being compound lifts, the center being more single muscle exercises, and the tip being abs and cardio.
That’s the difference of people who come to the gym to simply exercise and people who train and achieve specific results!
That’s why we’re called personal trainers and not personal exercisers. Good trainers (all Onyx trainers) know how to tailor a fitness program that’s customized to an individual’s needs, abilities, and goals. Most of our clients see us at least once a week and we plan out a customized, goal-based training program for them. Time spent at the gym is used wisely to achieve quicker fitness results. We also prescribe group exercise classes as supplemental work for them.

This is in no way a knock on what people are doing at the gym on their own, but my way to shed light on the fact that specific goals require specific training.
Consistently going to the gym is definitely a great thing. Working out can add years to one’s life. Train with purpose. Make a plan and stick to it. Be consistent and use a well-designed, goal specific program and watch the progress! If you feel like you’re not progressing, talk to a trainer. We know our stuff!

Embrace the journey…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *