Exercise Is Not The Same Thing As Training

Exercise Is Not The Same Thing As Training

What’s the difference? It is all about your intentions

Most people could be forgiven for thinking that exercise and training are mutually exclusive (They’re not). There is a stark contrast between them, even though they are both associated with physical activity. Imagine saying chickens and eagles are the same just because they’re both birds. The differences between them are clear, you wouldn’t commonly associate the chicken and an eagle even if the obvious outlier is that eagles can fly and chickens cannot.
So what is the difference between exercise and training? I break this down into 3 parts: Mindset, Intention and Application.
1. Mindset
The mental approach to exercise is generally a casual one that can be put off at any given moment when something else pops up. I’ve worked in the fitness industry as a Personal Trainer and Strength Coach for 13 years and when people mention exercise, the thing most people say is that they “should do some exercise”. This mindset is focused on the individual workout. It’s what also causes discomfort in a person who has been inactive for an extended period. Simply because having to “exercise” means that the workout is going to hurt, our mind wants to protect us and keep us safe so it then becomes easy to rationalise and make excuses to “start on Monday”.
The mental approach to training is different, it isn’t about an individual workout or 10. Training is all about the outcome, so the process no longer matters. Reaching the end goal of getting the desired outcome is what’s important. There is no room for excuses if you want what you say you want.
Do What You Said You Would — Paul Mort
Having a mindset for training is not easy to maintain. Just like the casual exercise person, there will be days when you don’t feel like doing anything. You’ll feel like skipping a session or you may not be at your best but more often than not, you’ll pick yourself up, put your gear on and get out the door. Remember, no excuse is bigger than the desired outcome.
2. Intentions
You could be forgiven for thinking that Mindset and Intentions were the same but they are different too. Your intention for training is based on achieving the desired outcome but it’s deeper than that. Your intentions are rooted in your core values, your purpose, your soul. When you train with intention at your core, it is a part of your identity. This is when you notice the change from considering whether “you’re in the mood” to a non-negotiable training session. Due to your intentions, the pain of not achieving your desired outcome soon outweighs the pain or discomfort of training when you take the time to consider your options.
Exercise carries a limited level of intention. The intention may simply be to get a bit hot and sweaty, get out of the house for a while or to socialise. These aren’t bad or wrong, it is much better than making excuses and not doing anything at all. I recently read an article where a woman started walking as a means to help her cope with her father’s ill health after a terminal disease diagnosis just before the coronavirus lockdown here in the UK. Sadly he deteriorated pretty quickly and he passed away. Walking became an escape and even though the intention wasn’t about coping with loss it, it gave her purpose.
3. Application
The first part of the application of a training program is creating a structure. The structure doesn’t have to be overly rigid but a framework that allows flexibility to learn and course-correct are what helps you reach your desired outcome goals.
Exercise can also be planned out by creating a plan of what classes you may wish to attend but this isn’t the same. A training program is specific to your needs and the exact elements required to move towards your goal. An exercise plan, especially one that relies on classes are mainly about moving and being active. You’re not in control of the programming so not in control of the outcome. Also taking into account that a group of other people are there to participate and will all have a different level of fitness, strength and experience you can find yourself running on the proverbial hamster wheel, doing exercise but not getting exactly what you want out of it.
I watched a clip of the Joe Rogan Experience on YouTube and he was speaking with the master of Kettlebells Pavel Tsatsouline. From listening to Pavel, one of the simplest ideals I took away was that
Training is a specific selection of a movement to achieve a particular outcome.
This is the basis of the whole argument for training. In the case of exercise, the simplest way to understand it is this
Exercise is about choosing something that’s easy to perform and getting better at doing it through constant repetition
Essentially training requires a level of skill and experience in a given movement but to improve function or performance to accomplish a goal.
Exercise carries less responsibility, less pressure on the outcome and is primarily focused on the moment or just building a new habit, social circle, or way to expend energy for physical and mental well being.
Eagles vs Chickens
I may have been a bit harsh on the chicken, to begin with, but the chicken serves a valuable purpose. The Eagle is taught that it must spread its wings to hunt and to catch its prey (get the desired outcome).
The chicken does not need to hunt, the chicken is given what it needs to live and is happy to live relatively stress-free within the coop along with the others on their wavelength.

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