Training vs. Exercising

Upon entering the world of strength training I began to realize the difference between training and exercising. I never made the distinction before, other than thinking that training didn't seem like something that "normal" everyday people do. We exercise, right? Only athletes really train. Through listening to real coaches talk about training, reading what they have to say about training, and observing the average athletes physique vs. the average "exercisers" physique, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to train and not exercise.

Lets discuss the physique or aesthetic point, as this is often a primary motivator to go exercise train. The average exercisers body type (tall, short, thick thin) and composition (% body fat) varies considerably. Next time you go to the gym look around at all the people on treadmills, elliptical machines, stair steppers, selectorized weight machines, and in aerobics classes. You'll probably notice that there are very fat people, very skinny people, some that appear strong,  and some that don't. So on average you get AVERAGE. That is the way it goes. So using the exercise approach will likely get you an average body type. That is unless you are under the impression that all the attractive and lean exercisers were once fatties and the current fatties are new to the idea of imposing some sort of physical exertion upon themselves. They all think "exercising" will get you good results, I do not believe this. I think gyms make their money from exercisers that think they will become lean fighting machines by walking on treadmills and random resistance exercises, but in reality allow life to get in the way of progress because progress is not easily obtained. They soon stop going to the gym after a few weeks despite the 300 bucks they forked out for the membership that was going to give them what they wanted: an athletes body. 

We have just determined that the exercise approach yields nothing special, unless you call a $300 red mark in your checking account special. Now how about athletes. Look at professional, Olympic, collegiate, and even high school athletes. These people have muscular bodies that are flexible and highly mobile. They do great things with their bodies, awe inspiring things. Names like Usain Bolt, Muhammad Ali and Michael Phelps conjure memories of fantastic, unstoppable and seemingly superhuman feats. Athletes do not triumph in competition and win Olympic medals by exercising. They couldn't even sustain the achievement of personal records by exercising. They do it by training.

Training means a realistic program is used that leads to realistic short term goals while keeping the grander long term goal(s) in site. Athletes do not miss training sessions unless they are sick, have a relative that just barely turned dead or are in fact dead themselves. Training as a real world athlete, one that holds a job that is not related to their athletic goals, is hard. It is especially hard to train properly once you are married and have kids, believe me, I know.   

What do most people think athletic training involves?

How bout every day wake up at 4:30 to run 3 miles, get home do push ups, pull ups and plyometrics before the kids wake up. Then eat, go to work and on the way home hit the gym for a crossfit workout, or weight training session (these are not equal but they are options), get home, eat, do yoga after the kids are in bed, and then  go to sleep.

This plan is not realistic.

A hard core training plan, especially for a beginner, does not require that you be stupid and kill yourself. A hard core training plan involves several sessions per week, that can be consistently attended, improved in form, and increased in intensity at a steady pace. This type of training plan yields positive results in superior performance and physique, in that order. It's called strength training.

Success in utilizing a training program will be determined by other factors beyond the exercises done while training. Sleep, proper nutrition (sufficient high quality calories, not the mindless calorie deficit idea so often applied to weight loss) and the execution of stressful multi-joint exercises are all parts of athletic training.

I have quit exercising and have begun strength training as an athlete. I invite you to do the same.