Exercising vs Training: What's Best For You?

Today we’re going to further examine the similarities and differences between exercising and training, and in the next 5-minutes, I hope to give you more context for exactly how to make the most of the physical activity in your life.

My goal in having these conversations is to inspire and educate this community to the point at which you can choose physical activities that meaningfully enhance your quality of life.

Our last chat was about a marketing campaign that creative agency AnalaogFolk did for Nike, about this shirt which reads, “Stop exercising, start training.” I understand the intended meaning behind that message, but unfortunately, rather than inspiring sedentary people to become more active, I think it ultimately reinforces our patterns of activity, for better or worse. We ended our last chat with the question:

“What’s ONE thing that you want to train for?”

Let’s take a step back to look at the big picture, and create context for what I mean as the difference between exercising and training, because the only major difference in the two definitions is in our minds – but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Exercise is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.” Training is defined as “the action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event.” The last five words of that definition make all the difference in the world: “preparation for a sporting event.” 

Exercising is done with the intent of improving health and fitness while training is done as preparation for a meaningful bout of activity. Yes, health and fitness can be improved during the training process, but the real goal is improving performance.

Two people might participate in very similar looking physical activity plans: Maybe over the course of a week they lift weights twice, participate in a high-intensity interval training program, and do two workouts focused on their aerobic endurance.

These weeks might look the same, but one person might be doing the same workout consistently to maintain their health, while the other person is systematically increasing the intensity of those workouts to improve performance in advance of a particular event, and that event can be anything. This fantasy person could be preparing for their first 5k, their first marathon, their 50th marathon, a photoshoot, a wedding, or the birth of their first grandchild.

The difference between training and exercise is pretty simple: If the intent of your physical activity program is to improve your ability to participate in or enjoy a specific event, then you are training. If you’re not working towards a specific goal within a specific timeline, then you’re not training, you’re exercising. The intent is everything.

Y’all, the real reason that I don’t like this silly shirt makes it sound like there’s something wrong with exercising, and that’s just not the case. If someone is consistently exercising in a way that positively improves their physical, social, and mental health, then exercising is great. And, I think that without having a specific training purpose, it’s much harder to be consistent with how we show up for our workouts. Remember when your 7th-grade math teacher assigned you all of the odds from 11-77 in your algebra textbook? The purpose of practicing the techniques of doing math was probably poorly conveyed, so it felt a lot more like suffering than meaningful practice or work.

Yes, you can exercise throughout your lifespan and lead a healthy life without actually ever training for a particular athletic event. Maybe you’re focused on growing old with grace, which I truly believe is the most noble goal in all of fitness.

But, if you had the option – the option to choose between exercising and training – what’s stopping you from choosing training?

If you could decide between slogging on the treadmill for 30 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the rest of your life, or following a 12-week or 12-month long plan to prepare you for a specific event that calls to you, what’s stopping you from choosing training?

According to the original marketing plan from Nike, it’s that some people think that training is for athletes only, and that’s not the case. Please understand the nuance of this conversation – YES exercise is still absolutely great for your health – don’t forget that.  Exercise is fantastic for you, I want to be explicitly clear about that. This isn’t a “but”, isn’t an “and.”

Exercise is fantastic for you, and training for a specific event is going to be a far more meaningful moment in your life. Nobody tells stories about their random Tuesday night workout. They tell stories about running in the rain after work to get their training in, and they tell stories about their first competitive event. If you have the opportunity to write a more interesting chapter in the story of your life, why not take it? 

Frodo would have been bored if he stayed in the Shire, Luke would have started skyward on Tattooine, and Harry Potter would have violently murdered his entire family! – Maybe – Anyway, my point is that if these heroes not taken the invitation towards adventure, they wouldn’t have the stories to tell. I don’t think that we should train for the sake of training, but we should train so that we can live a life full of stories worth telling. Let’s train so that we can tell better stories, my friends.

Alright, that’s it for this episode of HGTV, thanks for joining me! I’d love to know your thoughts: What do you do for exercise? What are you training for? Do you have a long-term goal that you need help preparing for? Let me know in the comments.

As always, if you’d like to watch this episode of HGTV, you can watch it below. Cheers!

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Hey friends, in today’s episode of HGTV we're going to take a step back to look at the big picture to understand the difference between exercising and training. Exercise is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness." Training is defined as "the action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event." The last five words of that definition make all the difference in the world: "preparation for a sporting event." The difference between training and exercise is pretty simple: If the intent of your physical activity program is to improve your ability to participate in or enjoy a specific event, then you are training. If you're not working towards a specific goal within a specific timeline, then you're not training, you're exercising. The intent is everything. If you had the option – the option to choose between exercising and training – what’s stopping you from choosing training? Please understand the nuance of this conversation – YES exercise is still absolutely great for your health – don’t forget that.  Exercise is fantastic for you, I want to be explicitly clear about that. This isn’t a “but”, isn’t an “and.” Exercise is fantastic for you, and training for a specific event is going to be a far more meaningful moment in your life. Nobody tells stories about their random Tuesday night workout. They tell stories about running in the rain after work to get their training in, and they tell stories about their first competitive event. If you have the opportunity to write a more interesting chapter in the story of your life, why not take it? I don't think that we should train for the sake of training, but that we can live lives worth telling stories about. Alright, that’s it for this episode of HGTV, thanks for joining me! I’d love to know your thoughts: What do you do for exercise? What are you training for? Do you have a long-term goal that you need help preparing for? Let me know in the comments! As always, if you’d like to read these words, you can head over to HaroldGibbons.com to read these words. #FitnessIsFreedom

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