Go On, Take Yourself Too Seriously

At the end of the day, we can skew one of two ways when it comes to fitness behavior. We can exercise. Or we can train. I’ve previously written many times about the difference in focus you automatically apply to your routine when you stop viewing it as exercise and start viewing it as training (that sounded like a Real World episode lead-in), and we’ll dive into why I am so passionate about the gap between the two psyches.

One produces long-term, auto generated buy-in, the other short lived fitness transience.

Let me explain.

Exercising is a wandering, hot and cold approach based on chasing sweat and pursuing fatigue. It’s a fitness vagabond, comes and goes, sometimes its present in your life, sometimes not and and it’s king is always max intensity to compensate for periods of zero action, usually short-lived. It’s hit and quit with not much of a plan. It’s 30 minutes on the treadmill each day, or some group class that doesn’t increase the load or challenge the pattern, just the pace. Exercise chases the sweat and the heart rate increase everyday, examining your daily workout success under a microscope of, “Did I feel like I was going to die.” Yes? Success. No? Failure.

What you do when you exercise does not matter a lick. If sweat and fatigue are the goal then the variance in how it is manifested each day is negligible. You can simply be like a lot of gyms and trainers, pick out five movements, put them in various orders and go HAM. They are often dressed up and presented in many different manners that makes the creator feel justified that it’s not just that — exercises pulled out of a hat and tossed onto a board without consideration for development. Will you lose some weight following this? Probably a little. Will you get more fit? Have fun? Get a little stronger and healthier? I guess. But is that all we’re after? The surface being mildly scratched and then what you’ve exposed being left to oxidize and rust?

Training on the other hand, is a dedicated focus built upon progressive benchmarks towards your goals. Participation in a program that challenges you to confront your potential as a physical human being, and hard-wires consistency through structure. Training means that you have said I want to achieve X and in order to reach that I am going to do Y. Training means you have a plan that is a priority in your life. It does not mean that you have to be competition-based or professionally motivated, just committed to something special to you. It means some days you leave the gym smoked, some days you leave the gym feeling like you didn’t work at all. Some days you pull the strings on intensity to make it maniacal, some days you back off and groove movement or address weakness. It means ditching the notion of grading yourself on a sweat scale or post workout pulse check, and adopting the idea of your aggregated time spent in the gym acting holistically to yield progress, not isolated suicide sessions to inflict as much fatigue as possible with no real idea of your collective end-game.

Training versus exercising is not about what you do or method you follow, it’s about how you do it. Getting off your ass and into a routine that has you moving is always better than the alternative, but it’s going after low hanging fruit to simply leave people at that, and I refuse to accept that as justification to not ultimately pursue higher learning. It’s entry level, and sooner or later we all must register for the 202, 303, and 404 as we work towards our own mastery.

Some critique the training pysche by saying it takes itself too seriously and isn’t based on “having fun.” You know what’s fun? Results. Progress. Getting better. Being strong. Shared hard work with someone. I think exploring your potential and extending your physical readiness both in ability and longevity is about as fun as it gets. I think a lot of people run from the concept of training because they are afraid of what they’ll find out they aren’t, rather than uncover all the great things they are.

And for that discovery, you train.

-Dave Thomas

Related Reading:

Under Commit, Over Deliver?

How to Be Successful in the Gym Long-Term