Exercising vs. Training

Most people at your local gym are exercisers.  They are chasing “the burn”.  Coach Pat Ward has said it like this, about just exercising, “There isn’t really a rhyme or reason to what you are doing.  It doesn’t build on the last workout.  There may be a goal in mind (IE, fat loss) but the workout is more just a collection of “stuff” rather than something specific.”  Sound familiar?  In my experience there are two kinds of exercisers, those who love it, many times runners, and can be seen plugging away for hours on various machines or lunging across the room over and over again and those who know they should go to the gym but don’t really like it.  As a trainer I’ve worked with both kinds.  The high energy types who just want to go, go, go all the time.  As long as they’re moving they’re happy.  They want to leave saying “you really kicked my butt today”.  The other group has a trainer because it holds them accountable to be at the gym.  They want to be told what to do and not have to think about it.  It’s kind of a “I barely made it here today, feel guilty about the cookies I ate last night, and my mind is elsewhere”, attitude.

To both these people I say, what if you really put your mind and focus into what you were doing?  What if you had a clear goal over a several week or month period instead of just meeting your goal of consistently making it to the gym?  What if, instead of pushing through the machine circuit at a furious pace, you took the time to learn how to properly perform movements that take more technical skill like a deadlift, full push up, or kettlebell swing?  Instead of removing your mind from what you are doing while watching TV just going through the motions of punishing yourself, you instead put yourself into what you are doing.  Performing more dynamic and athletic movements will require that.  I realize that I might not be like most people but training is my therapy on a daily basis.  No matter what is going on I make time to lift heavy things and I typically forget all about the outside world.  I just train.

I have a good friend Ashley who is an Olympic weightlifter.  When speaking with her you will never hear her talk about working out, much less exercising.  She trains.  She has a coach, training partners, a specific plan each day and the goal of competing in the Olympic lifts.  There is something to be learned from this, even for the average person who works 8 hours a day and has numerous other responsibilities.

Ashley in action

As mentioned above, those without a real goal are typically just doing “stuff” just to do “stuff”.  If it makes them sweat or burns a bit then it must be good.  Even better if you are sore the next day, right?  Wrong.  I can really feel the burn by doing 25 BOSU squat jumps but that doesn’t mean they’re really productive or even safe for that matter.  In one-way or another, it’s important to have something specific to work toward.

It can be tough to know how to achieve that goal if you don’t know the best way to get there.  There is some valuable information in fitness magazines written by qualified professionals but let’s the facts, most of the information perpetuated by the media and shows like The Biggest Loser is in fact trash.  A.k.a., completely useless.  The cost of a qualified professional, or coach, even if for a very short time, it is well worth it.


Last, if you aren’t utilizing a coach/trainer currently it pays to have training partners.  Preferably someone that will be waiting for you everyday, is equally focused, and will let you know when you are slacking.

Exercising can only take you so far.  Don’t be mindless at the gym.  Just because it makes you tired doesn’t mean it’s worth doing.  Learn to do what works best and challenge yourself.  Better results will be achieved in the long term.  As physical therapist Michael Stare has said, “Training means you have clear goals, and you are systematic, focused, and analytical in pursuing your goals. You eliminate chance from the equation. You are purposeful in your actions, and you are held accountable by measuring your progress towards your goals.”  Now go train!

– Mike Baltren

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