Exercise vs. Training: What is the Difference and why you should know!

In one of my past blog entries I discussed the primary components of fitness and how many people are very one dimensional in their approach to fitness.  They may be strong at endurance only, strength only etc.  This is many times a symptom of poor program design. 

In this entry I want to discuss the difference between exercise and training.  I am often asked what differentiates Sirens and Titans www.sirensandtitansfitness.com  from other programs.  We are often lumped in with all the different circuit programs, Crossfit studios, etc. I believe our primary differentiator is our focus on results and the reason we get great results is because we are not just providing exercise.  We  integrate a complete program design that begins with a thorough evaluation of the client.  I know this may sound confusing but read on and it will make more sense.  The easiest to understand real world example would be mapping out a trip across the country before you started driving.  This is even more important if the trip has a time element and you have to be at your destination in a certain amount of time.  Imagine stopping at random gas stations along the way to ask for directions.  This would not be the most effective method to get to your destination within the time.  Fitness is no different.  You have a limited amount of time to get to your destination.   Most approaches to fitness are based on this inefficient methodology.   

Strategy, strategy, strategy!!  This is worth taking the time to look at closely.


Exercise:  The generally accepted definition is a  physical activity to become stronger or healthier.  Walking, yoga, Crossfit, Zumba, spinning, etc.  All of these are exercise.  You go to a class and with minimal regard to your goal you perform movements that are physically demanding.  Think about a spinning class.  You do not know what type of class you get until the instructor walks in the door.  In addition the level of intensity is determined by you.  You can go hard or easy or moderately it is not prescriptive exercise based on a primary goal of improvement.  Unless you dictate an overload in an energy system you are targeting you are pretty much just getting exercise.  You are letting luck and your understanding of the science to dictate the result.  You are moving and that is good, but quickly your body will adapt and you will see little change in your body or fitness.  This is the “No Man’s Land” of training.  You will be in good company as most people that workout regularly end up here.  Even some elite athletes with poor coaching end up here as well.  This is why the fitness industry is poor at delivering results to the clients. 

Is your time valuable?  Training/Coaching:  A strength and conditioning coach’s responsibility to the athlete is to design a program that results in the highest level of improvement possible within the time allocated to train with the coach.    One is coached with an overarching strategy to improve the athlete to the highest level of fitness in the shortest amount of time based on an evaluation of their current strengths and weaknesses and what are the particular needs of the sport. 

The technical term for this in the world of strength and conditioning is a periodization.  A periodization can be long or short.  The objective is to move the athlete as far to optimum with their conditioning as possible in the time devoted to this training.   The Eastern Bloc athletes were utilizing 10 year periodization for some of their athletes.  Every workout builds on the next.  There are a number of different approaches to the periodization.  Undulating, and linear are the two most common. 

Most of the time strength coaches do not have 10 years of training time with an athlete.  I have always believed that the real product of a great strength coach is time.  An athlete has a depreciating asset with a limited window for greatness. With good coaches the athlete can have much greater production in their sport within their window of productive years.  In other words they are much fitter earlier in their career with great strength and conditioning coaching. 

If all you had to do was exercise to get really fit then all pro athletes would just play their sport and do nothing else but their respective sport for improvements in fitness and then rely on their genetic gifts.  This would be an ineffective method to realize peak performance in elite athletes.     The difference between what the average person does to improve fitness and what we provide our client’s  as strength coaches is prescribed exercise. Typically the average person randomly determines the exercise prescription.  Or they take a class that prescribes only one type of exercise without any consideration to what would be the most effective training for their desired result.

The problem with this approach is that the average person spends countless hours of wasted time with little or no improvement.  It would be like a doctor prescribing hemorrhoid cream for bi-polar disorder.  The person may see some result but very unlikely.    Dependent on what the diagnosis is for the athlete’s current level of capability, maturity, strengths and weaknesses, and what the specific sport requires, we will prescribe the appropriate activity to fit the overarching strategy we have developed for that particular athlete.  There are a number of components that go into designing this strategy. In order to obtain the greatest result in the shortest time each workout is a link in a bigger chain.    I have discussed this in previous blog entries.  It is what is typically lacking in most training programs.  Most people focus only on the exercise component and not the training and coaching part of the equation. Exercise is better than nothing, however I think most people would like to see positive results in the shortest time and ongoing improvement in their level of fitness and body composition for the effort.  Without considerable thought put into the prescription of exercise there is typically failure which is exemplified in slow or no change in body composition and fitness.   If you are struggling with your training this is typically the problem.  Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to solve unless you find someone who can effectively design a program.  Program design is a dynamic process.  How the individual adapts to the exercise determines progressions, rest, intensity, volume, and type of exercises.  This is typically where the wheels come off in the process.

So think about the difference between exercise and training and you will have a much better chance for success in your fitness and body composition. 


Truth in Fitness!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS Primal Health Coach Certified