Exercise Vs. Training

brick wall

Last week I posted this article on my FB page about “The Important Distinction Between Exercise and Training.

This article really struck a cord with me and so I just had to write about it here on the blog too. I’ve been thinking and pondering all week about it.

The article starts out with a few definitions of different levels of activity.  I will use direct quotes for those so you can understand better.

Physical Activity: “Physical activity is what The American Heart Association wants you to get some of each week. “Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories” — the quote from their website regarding what they consider to be necessary for continued physical existence.”

Physical Fitness: “Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligation, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype.”

Exercise: “Exercise is physical activity performed for the effect it produces today — right now. Each workout is performed for the purpose of producing a stress that satisfies the immediate needs of the exerciser: burning some calories, getting hot, sweaty, and out of breath, pumping up the biceps, stretching — just punching the physical clock. Exercise is physical activity done for its own sake, either during the workout or immediately after it’s through.”

Training: “Training is physical activity performed for the purpose of satisfying a long-term performance goal, and is therefore about the process instead of the workouts themselves. And since the process must generate a definable result at a point in time removed from each workout, the process must be planned to produce this result. Training may also be the best way to achieve the goals that many people seek through Exercise.”


Reading these definitions made me wonder where I fall in the spectrum of activity.  I knew I do far more than Physical Activity and Physical Fitness.  I wondered where I fall between Exercise and Training.

Then I realized that I really, truly TRAIN!  That was huge for me to make that realization. For a girl who used to much bigger, tired, and depressed and had no idea how to navigate a gym it is amazing progress to reach the level of TRAINING.

What is it that defines someone who TRAINS versus Exercises?

Two Things…


A Plan.

A person who exercises often does the same thing everyday be it run outside, do an exercise video, 30 minutes on the elliptical, etc. The goal is to achieve a certain level of exertion each day so that health and perhaps a certain body composition is achieved.  Exercise if often a line on the To-Do list to be checked off each day and unfortunately, is often bumped down the list for other seemingly more important things.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Exercise. The majority of the American population is completely okay with exercise and there is nothing wrong with that.

The article also says, “So most people are perfectly satisfied with Exercising, and Exercise is all most people actually need, especially if their goal is just to get in shape and stay that way. Modern corporate health clubs are designed exclusively for Exercising, Training being far less profitable. The standard industry model is 55 percent of the floor space devoted to “cardio” equipment, on which repetitive motions of various types can be performed while watching television.”

The mindset for Training is completely different.   There is usually a more specific goal established in the future.  Do you ever hear someone say, “I am going to exercise so I can run a marathon.”  Probably not.  You will hear that person say, “I am TRAINING for a marathon.” These people become obsessed with the goal and the process of getting there.  Not too much can get in the way of a scheduled workout because missing a training session can mess up the whole process when on the other hand exercise can always be done tomorrow.

There is no due date for exercise but there is a due date looming over those who train.  That due date could be a long distance race, a bodybuilding competition, a power-lifting meet, or just a very special event. Whatever it is, that due date is always getting closer and you better be ready.

The second difference is A PLAN.

When you exercise do you have a specific plan in place? When I say ‘a plan’, I mean a very specific way of doing your workout that is designed in order to achieve your specific goal. Each workout works in conjunction with other workouts so that strength is built and/or endurance is achieved.  That is why missing a workout because “you don’t feel like it” can completely mess up a training plan. That missed workout becomes a missing brick in the wall of a plan and that makes the plan weaker.

When you walk into the gym do you know what you are going to do that day? Or do you decide when you get there?

When I, and many of friends, go to the gym I know exactly what muscle groups I am going to work and I know what specific exercises I am going to do and for what number of sets and reps. I know because it was planned ahead of time and I have carried the workout into the gym with me.

Training is not for everyone and that is perfectly okay. Exercising is always better than doing nothing.  And many people go through phases of training and phases of exercising.   For those who want more out of their exercise, Training is a logical next step.

As the article said, “Wherever you might be in this process — just starting to think about getting up out of the chair or wondering why you’re not making any progress no matter how hard you try — the correct approach to the problem involves understanding where you are along the spectrum of your physical existence, and making the correct decisions about what to do next. It may be that Exercise is all you really need, but Training may be the best answer to the problem.”


Do you want to learn how to TRAIN?  Are you ready for the next step?

A PERSONAL TRAINER is a good investment when you are making that transition and a NUTRITION COACH can help you Eat to Perform. I can help with both. 🙂

Contact me for more information.

I am always listening,



Exercise Vs. Training

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