Lately I've seen more articles tackling this particular subject. Let's thank the universe that the stars align from time to time and some commercial media channels actually feature real experts with valuable, truth-based information. Unfortunately, most of it lands on deaf (uneducated and/or confused) ears, probably because these same channels precede and follow up such articles with the latest "fitness craze" or "newest celebrity trainer signature move". So here's a quick look at the importance of this subject and hopefully we'll start a conversation to build on.
1. Training is about a greater purpose. Exercising is about exercising.
To gain a positive life changing result, you must know what your working, fighting, and/or training for. Training is about working effectively and efficiently towards achieving your defined goals. Exercising without this greater thought process may yield some positive changes short term, but you will only accomplish a fraction of what could be accomplished, and most likely waste a lot of time in the process.
There is no magic pill or perfect method to get you in the best shape of your life. There is no perfect system of training either. Everything works until it doesn't. Anything can work if you believe enough in it and you follow instructions well. The truth is, however, that nothing will work without purpose. I can say with full certainty, that all false promises that feed on the emotion and superficial desires of the masses will eventually run their course, just as any empty and unclear pursuit of greatness will eventually have its downfall.
Find your purpose and define your goals. Then you have the first step towards finding the right means to achieve results and reaching your true potential. There is no perfect mean, but there is a right process. There is also the science to guide the process. This process is determined by the purpose behind why you are training. What follows is a thought-out plan and expected, timely and measurable results that add up to a greater long term goal. This implies that every training session or routine (not just a workout) also has a specific purpose. Furthermore, this implies that there's sufficient knowledge and understanding to correct, modify or change something about the plan when needed. This implies success.
2. Training is about the future. Exercising is about today.
We all know regular exercise and daily physical activity can improve and maintain good health. But exercising randomly doesn't win you championships, help you break personal records, transform your body, or actually make significant health and functional changes that will improve your long term health and quality of life.
Most exercise based protocols consist of constant movement and excess sweating. You may feel that you are accomplishing a goal and that you are extremely productive, but one must question the sustainability and longevity of approaching fitness in this way. If your workouts consist of ONLY endurance work on a bike or machine while going nowhere, and/or frantic, time-based bouts of combined exercises, such as circuits of running in place, erg rowing, pushups, squats, burpees, swings, light high-rep resistance work, or any other of the same old monkey business you see in any fitness class or informercial workout; You are indeed exercising -Not training. Yes, you are burning calories, but will you burn more calories day in and day out, even while at rest, long term? Yes, your heart and muscles can do more work after a while, but are you reaching your full potential by randomly shuffling around the same activities and protocols?
There is an inverse relationship between Quality and Quantity. More people, more reps, more sets, more exercising, more moving, etc.; by definition leads to less individual attention, lesser ability to teach and learn properly, less focus, little to non existent quality programing, less recovery, and so on. This approach is successful from a business perspective as it draws herds and motivates them to move in community, with less thinking and affordable prices. But I'll repeat again, these focus on exercises pulled out of a hat to "lose calories", break a sweat, or make you tired, you will NOT result in any significant long-term progress. You will not really be strong and keep getting stronger. You won't be able to do a triathlon. You won't correct your weaknesses and may create further long term damage. You won't carve an admirable balanced physique, and most likely you won't be able to keep it up much longer without abuse injuries, plateauing, getting bored, or feeling the need to find the next and newest trend.
Yes something is better than nothing and classes formed with some minor progressions and changes are better than just something, but there's already inhibited limitations in this format and not enough good coaching to overcome it long term. Though fun and enjoyable as they may be, these Churn and burn focus only result in SHORT-TERM achievement. They solve the problems of today. You may lose some calories so you can keep eating and drinking the same and not gain any more weight, or they can possibly make you "skinny" if you starve yourself while you feel "the burn" everyday. Either way, this warped perception of fitness that prevails rampantly now days is the total opposite of what having a fit life style means.
3. Exercise is about breaking a sweat; Training is about gaining a skill.
Some people are content with just exercising; they are just looking to stay in shape. I am encouraging you to seek purpose within your workouts. Make your sweat during workouts mean something. Make that jump from exercising to training. Changing your outlook and seeing fitness in this way creates the right platform to finding true balance of mind, body, and spirit, and ensures that exercise becomes an integral part of your life and not just a chore. Achieving this balance and know how is precisely what it means to have Skill. Here's your dictionary.com definition:
the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well: "Carpentry was one of his many skills."
competent excellence in performance; expertness; dexterity: "The dancer performed with skill."
Mastering an exercise is skill. Mastering the ability to pace your self or push yourself further when it counts, is skill. Achieving a movement task or performing in a sport efficiently and effectively, in a fluid, coordinated and timely manner, is skill. A lot of skills are dependent on strength, or some form of strength, and developing strength properly and safely is a skill.
Although practice implies repetition, repeating things over and over without some evaluation, correction, and progression, will not result in skill building. It will result in burnout. Variety is needed to prevent accommodation, yet too soon or too much change won't allow significant adaptation and can cause damaging fatigue to the system. So, as you see, knowing how to train can be complicated and is in itself a skill. The more skillful one is at training, the easier it is to make complicated training decision and guarantee results. More on this to come, but here's some food for thought:
If you are paying a trainer, are you paying him to exercise you or train you? and which is the trainer actually doing?
People who exercise want to look and feel better. People who train want to see tangible results, and make sure they feel, look and perform better. Having purpose within your workouts will improve your mind, which, in turn, will improve your body. Accomplishing a goal feels good. Training effectively feels even better.
Without a good plan, continuos learning and good coaching, there's no improved longevity, no developing of skills or real learning on how to work out appropriately for your body and its needs. Much less does it help you develop a process that is sustainable and that you can engage in for the rest of your life. So the pursuit of the daily burn may ultimately leave you in ashes.
As we have learned, working towards goals is an important step to effective training. So again, define your long and short term goals, educate yourself on how to best achieve them, and seek the help a qualified professional. You will achieve your immediate goals faster and safer, while continuing to make improvements and getting stronger for the rest of your life.