Contrary to the belief of some people, there is a big difference between exercise and training. Both have their place and both have their merits, but they are not the same thing. Everyone who trains is exercising, but not everyone who is exercising is training.Exercise is anything that makes the body work. This can be running, jumping, walking, swimming, playing sports, lifting weights, zumba, crossfit, cycling, or really anything that makes your muscles work and gets your heart rate up (yes, I said the word "crossfit". Crossfitters, please refrain from sending me hate emails...I get them every time I even breathe the word; apparently you are a sensitive group!). There are a lot of merits to exercise. It can be fun, it can be good for the body, and it can make you healthier than you currently are. However, exercise can also be harmful - if the load is too extreme for your body, if you are doing the same repetitive movements over and over again building muscle imbalance, or if you are doing something incorrectly in terms of movement or what is actually good for your individual body.Training is different than exercise in that it is an intervention strategy. In order for a program to be a true training program, it needs three things.
The first thing is a proper assessment. This is not just fitness testing; it must also include some kind of movement screening and postural examination to determine which muscles are weak and which muscles are strong. If we are going to build a training program, it is essential that we first know the baselines of that individual body. If you don’t know how a person's individual body works, how can you expect to make positive changes to it?
The second thing training needs is a plan. A proper training program should have a series of progressions starting with what you are capable of doing immediately and ending with the final goals for a specific movement. For example, if you cannot do a perfect squat, you should not be jumping. A proper training program for a jumper would first identify the movement patterns involved in that person’s squat and then take them through a series of planned out progressions to get them to squatting with perfect form. After this is achieved, they are ready to jump. This training plan should incorporate all forms of a person’s movement from where they are at the start to where they want to go. Stage 1 of a movement (whatever your stage 1 is) should not be preceded or overlapped by stage 4. This is often overlooked because stage 4 is typically WAY cooler than stage 1. Let's ditch the "cool" and be smart instead!
The third thing that you need (not the third most important) is a proper end goal. Exercising with the goal of “getting healthy” is a never-ending process. You will never reach a point in your life where you can say “That’s it! Now I am fit”. It is always going to be an ebb and flow. Times where you are either more or less fit or healthy based on a host of factors. Instead of training just for the sake of training, come up with a goal. This can be anything from losing 20 pounds to doing an Ironman, but it should have a beginning and end point so that you know if you have been successful. Future training programs can then be based on the success of the one you have just completed.Why we need both exercise and trainingA lot of training coach purists want people to only train and not to exercise, but the fact of the matter is that we need both in order to be truly successful. We need to have a goal and a plan to get there if we want to see results, but we also need to have some fun. So while it is important that we have an intervention strategy, it is also important that we are trying new things and having fun with our fitness. Go for a random run, cycle, snowshoe, circuit class, or swim, but make sure that what you are doing is within the limitations of your body’s specific needs/wants so as not to set your training program back.The most important take away from this post is that just because you are exercising does not mean you are training. Just because you have hired somebody to build you a “training program” does not mean it is anything more than guided exercise (which can be helpful or harmful). Without proper assessment and fitness testing followed by a training program that addresses the issues found in the assessment, it is not a training program; it is simply exercise.