The difference between exercise and training

I was given a t-shirt two weeks ago that said:

Stop Exercising. Start Training.

I don’t often agree with slogans on Nike t-shirts. With the exception of the Bo Knows series from the 90’s. I was always pretty sure that Bo knew everything.

 Chasing a chicken to help you beat Apollo Creed is a version of training. 

Chasing a chicken to help you beat Apollo Creed is a version of training. 

Are you exercising? Or are you training? And what’s the difference? And why do I ask so many questions?

Good question. 

Before we talk about exercise or training, let's start with physical activity, which is described by the Center for Disease control as any activity that gets your body moving. Also according to the CDC, adults need at least two and a half hours every week of physical activity. So doing things like brisk walking everyday (to understand what brisk walking means, check out an earlier post I wrote here), hitting your Fitbit step goals, playing with your kids and grandkids - this is physical activity. 

If you are sedentary in your job then finding ways to be physically active after work and on weekends (or even during the workday with walking meetings or walks on lunch breaks) is an important place to start. But it's just that - a starting point. 

The next step is to add some type of exercise in to your weekly routine. 

Exercise is a physical activity performed for the effect that it produces today - right now. Mark Rippetoe describes it as “punching the physical clock.” When I take my basset hound out for a walk, we’re exercising. Or, lying on the sidewalk because it’s hot and he protests and then I carry him back to the house. So I’m exercising. As a kid, I went outside and threw a ball off of the wall over and over again. My adorable parents go to their local gym three times per week and use the elliptical and weight machines and bands. 

When you start to exercise with a particular performance goal in mind, your physical activity transforms from exercise to training. This is why we train for a 5K or a marathon - we train for a power lifting meet - we train to catch a chicken because it will help us defeat Apollo Creed....

Last night at the gym, I had a long conversation with a client who’s been with us for over a year. She’s lost a lot of weight, kept it off, and is starting to get antsy. I would argue that she has outgrown exercise - now she’s ready to train. She likes the idea of taking her fitness to the next level and is bored with exercise for the sake of exercise. She has built a strong base and is ready for more. That more might be a mud run or an obstacle race - it might be a push/pull meet (powerlifting meets that have only a bench and deadlift, no squat), or maybe running a 5K or 10K.

She doesn't have to sign up for an event like a run or power lifting meet to start training though. She might start training for a 1.5 times bodyweight deadlift. Once she sets a performance goal and gears her workouts towards hitting that goal, she is now training.

There is no one right place to be, depending on where you are in your personal journey. Physical activity might be the goal - and that’s ok - we all need to start somewhere. But if you have been exercising for a long time - going to the gym three times per week and riding the recumbent bike while watching t.v. and are frustrated that you aren't seeing any changes in terms of fat loss, then it perhaps it's time to stop just exercising and start training with a purpose.