Exercising vs. Training

As summer winds down, and we approach ‘fall back to fitness’, many will be seeking the fitness routine they had before summer shenanigans. So as you get back into your routine, ask yourself – are you training or are you just exercising?

Exercise and training might often be used as synonymous terms, but there are a few important distinctions between the two. Exercise can best be thought of as physical activity that serves an immediate purpose and effect. It is done for its own sake, whether that is during the workout or immediately after. This “effect” or “purpose” can include burning calories, getting a pump on, getting sweaty, or as a way to blow off steam & de-stress. Training, on the other hand, is utilizing physical activity to achieve a definite performance objective, which is often long-term. The difference between exercise and training is a question of intention.

Training is a process designed to achieve a specific result. It is a pre-determined progression of activity designed to satisfy a long-term performance goal. Training is less about the workouts individually than it is about the process of utilizing the workouts to reach the ultimate training goal, or the cumulative effect of the individual workouts. The results are reached by progressing week after week, tracking progress and adjusting as needed. Training is about long-term improvement for a specific purpose, which often means displacing the immediate feeling of having achieved a goal until that goal is realized down the line.

The primary goal of exercise is, generally, to keep you healthy. Exercising can produce immediate results, and results over the long term even; however, training is deciding on a goal and using physical activity to achieve that goal. Long-term results from consistent exercise are a welcome by-product but are not the outcome of intentional physical activity. Any program that features exposure at random to various types of physical stress cannot produce a specific physical adaptation. Past a certain point the adaptation that occurs naturally with exercise will stop, a point that occurs relatively quickly.

Should we all be training? Not necessarily. It’s more about your specific goals. If the goal is to maintain health, exercising might be sufficient, and the most important thing would then be to choose exercise options that motivate you to continue and be consistent. Jumping from program to program or choosing random workouts can be a great way to exercise without getting bored. For those who have specific goals, a long-term training program with trackable results is more appropriate.

Kristen Hansen, BA, CSEP-CPT, PFT-NAIT, NASM-CES, FRCms
SVPT Fitness & Athletics