Are you Training or Exercising? The difference matters...

Are you able to answer this question? If not, then like most people the chances are despite what you may believe you are doing the latter and not the former. Some people might argue that if they are going to the gym, or running every week they are clearly training, but even if you are going EVERY DAY that might not be the case. You see while training and exercise are both characterized by some form of physical activity, this is pretty much where the similarities between the them come to an end...

It's important to make the point that there isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer to whether you should be training or exercising - it all depends on your desired outcome. But before we get to that lets first establish the difference between training and exercise. To put it simply exercise is movement for movement's sake (again there isn't necessarily anything wrong with this), whereas training is characterised by some key features that give it a number of advantages over exercise. You may find some slightly different definitions of training depending on where you look, but in my opinion these are the three most important principles of training:

1. Specificity 
Regardless of whatever form training takes, be it running, weight lifting, swimming, or Pilates it must be specific to the goal in mind. E.g. if your goal is to lose weight then activities that allow you to burn the most calories are the ones that you should choose, so in this instance dong yoga three times a week isn't going to be the best option. Furthermore, if you are trying to improve your athletic ability in a given sport then performing exercises that are the most similar to the movement patterns executed during play are going to be the most appropriate. So if you are a football player then focusing primarily on lower body over upper body movements is going to be preferable. If you don't plan your training sessions accordingly, or if you aren't sure which exercises are the best for your chosen activity, check out the Online Personal Training section of my website to find out how I can help you.

2. Progressive Overload
In order to make progress whether you are trying to get stronger, fitter, or more flexible you have to generate a stimulus strong enough to force your body to adapt. Note the word force here - your body won't spend valuable resources to change itself unnecessarily. Over time your body will get used to a given stimulus and won't adapt anymore, this is characterised by a plateau in improvement. To ensure your continual progress you must gradually increase the training stimulus over time. You can do this by increasing the intensity, volume, or frequency of your training sessions. However, the crucial thing here is that you track your performance in each session. If you don't know what weights you lifted, or how far you ran in your last session how will you know what to do next time? To put it simply if you aren't recording what you are doing in each workout then you are NOT training.

3. Individual needs
The third principle links to the first and is so often the thing people forget about when it comes to their training regimen. It is incredibly important to take into account what works best for you because this can vary from person to person, if you have dodgy knees then doing tonnes of burpees and tuck jumps isn't going to be ideal. This is the downside to exercise classes, as to get the best results your training sessions should be based around YOUR individual fitness level and no one else's.

In summary, while exercise is great for burning some spare calories and maintaining good health, training is a far more strategic approach to achieving your health and fitness goals. Therefore, if you are trying to get into the best shape of your life then exercise simply isn't going to cut it. But if you are just trying to stave of the inevitable slow down of your metabolism as you get older and avoid gaining half a stone each year, then exercise will do the job just fine.


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