Are you training with purpose or just working out?
Updated: Jul 15
What would you call your exercise?
Do you think of it, and refer to it as “working out” or “training''?
What is the difference between these two?
Is there even a difference between these and why is it even important for you to understand?
Well, I hope to answer those questions with this post today in which I’ll dive into how you can get the most out of your exercise and see the best progress and biggest changes in your health, fitness, and performance.
A trip down memory lane...
Okay so you are interested in getting the most out of your exercise routine right now.
But wait one second...before we talk about the present and the future. Let’s take a look back on our past.
I ask you this: When, if ever did you have a specific goal in performance, physique, or health?
This can be going back to your pee-wee days when you wanted to learn how to throw a baseball or softball.
This could have been in high school when you wanted to become a starter on your soccer team.
Maybe you wanted to get six pack abs in college after the freshman 15 hit you hard!
Did you want to run a 5k, half marathon, or full marathon?
Did you want to hit a new PR on your back squat?
Whatever it is - I want you to think back and remember if you had to do any specific training to accomplish that goal?
Did you have a routine that you followed each week?
I know for those who have run marathons - the week by week progression of mileage is a 4-6 month process!
No doubt that if you wanted a six pack you would need to follow some sort of plan in your eating and exercise to accomplish such a feat!
What I’m getting at here is the importance of recognizing the impact on specific training to reach a goal.
Training with purpose
Accomplishing goals that we set out requires some sort of action plan. Look at every aspect of life: business, education, health, relationships...you probably needed some sort of plan to get to where you are now.
Let’s take for example education. We were set on a path as young as 3 years old to learn specific skills so that over time those skills created a foundation for the next level of skills.
Which in turn set the stage for the next jump, the next jump, and so on. There’s a reason why we need to learn how to count to 10 before we can start adding and subtracting.
There is a purpose and a reason for the progression of education so that you can set yourself up for the best possible outcomes.
The same is true with your health and fitness.
You can’t go out there and run 5 miles before you’ve learned how to run 1 mile.
You can’t get under a barbell and decide to squat 200lbs before you’ve learned how to properly squat 20lbs. (Unless you are some genetic and athletic freak, and even then the risk for injury is very high!)
When we set ourselves up with a goal in mind - you NEED to have a purpose for doing anything that you THINK will get you to that goal.
I love this quote from good ol’ Benjamin Franklin
“Failing to plan, is planning to fail”
If you don’t have a plan of attack - you’ll most likely hit a wall, a roadblock or get lost in what you think is actually helping.
This leads to disengagement, loss of interest, and ultimately...a feeling of failure within yourself.
I know that I’ve felt this before - I wanted to decrease my 40 yard dash time about 2 summers ago.
My goal was to get faster for flag football so that I can continue to have an impact in the game. I had my purpose, yet I didn’t map out a plan.
And that’s coming from someone who is a trainer, who knows how to program these things and who has helped others attain goals that are in the performance area.
So even I fell into the trap of failing to plan and when the summer ended - I was no faster because I didn’t train specifically for it.
What is “just working out”
I use the word “just” not to minimize the effort of getting up and heading to the gym to toss some weights around, get in a sweat, and feel those endorphins flowing.
There’s nothing wrong with “just working out”, but I want to be super clear on what “just working out” will get you.
So firstly, I want to ask you a question.
What’s your routine when you get into the gym?
Are you just picking up weights that “you feel” are heavy enough?
Are you just doing the exercises that you “want” to that day?
Do you do exercises in a random order or the same exact ones each time?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions - you are probably “just working out”.
Working out is something that we all know we should do in some way. We should move the body, we should be getting our heart rates up and we should be challenging ourselves to do more weight, go faster, or become more efficient.
However the problem arises when you start spinning your wheels in the mud- you feel that working out is simply enough to see those changes.
And truthfully...it might be for some. If you are the type of person who takes group classes, goes to the gym and follows the same program for the past 5 years, or who maybe just walks for 20 minutes on a daily basis….you will feel and look better over time.
I’m not here to bash “just working out” however let’s start to break down the difference between training and working out.
Big changes come to those who train
Let’s start with a visual metaphor to this problem of training vs. working out.
Picture a maze straight out of the 1920’s with high bushes circling a big beautiful fountain in the middle.
Now let’s say we have 2 people who start outside of the maze. One of them has a map of the maze, whereas the other one doesn’t.
The person with the map knows exactly where the dead ends are, where to make the turns, and has an idea of how long it’ll take to get to that center of the maze.
The person without the map goes into the maze and makes turns based on how they feel, intuition, or just plan guessing.
Who is going to get there faster? Of course we know the person with the map will get there first.
To be fair - the person without the map will eventually get there as well. And that’s fine also - it isn’t always about speed.
And this goes true for your exercise and health - sometimes speed isn’t a motivating factor. IF you don’t feel it’s of utmost importance to lose those 25lbs of weight, you might be okay with playing day by day and step by step not knowing where exactly you need to go to get to the 25lb weight loss.
Although I’m sure the majority of people would agree that they want to lose those 25 lbs yesterday.
So if that is the case - why are you not following the map?
The person who has the map and has the plan will get to that fountain faster but not only that - they will then get to the next fountain faster, or the next goal.
We know that with positive success , we are motivated and pushed to do more because we gain the confidence in accomplishing one part of change.
A real example can be seen with my clients at LIFW. I had someone training to push a sled 400lbs 10 yards. Once they accomplish that goal they then set their sights on hitting 425lbs, then 450.
The cycle continues and the plan continues. This is training with a purpose
Training provides real-time feedback
Another beautiful aspect to training is the amount of feedback you get within the program. When you are training with a roadmap - you’ll be able to see if you are on pace to successfully accomplish your goal.
Getting those small wins can create a big momentum shift in your desire and motivation to keep moving forward.
If you can see on a page that you’ve increased your strength by 30 lbs in your back squat over the course of 3 weeks - you will probably feel pretty damn good about it (if you were working on this specific goal of course!)
(New program sheets for my clients!)
Even though the goal and target might still be months away from you - seeing and feeling those changes can keep you in the game and keep you coming back for more.
On the other end - if you see that things are getting stagnant, your weight seems to just stay at the same spot, your exercise is boring you or you aren’t increasing your capacity to do more in the gym - you’ll be able to see exactly what is going on and be able to adjust.
When you train with a purpose, everything you do day in and day out matters.
When you are just working out, you might be doing less weight one day, more weight the next, pushing yourself less on your cardio machine one day, and pushing yourself too much on the next.
No plan is perfect and real life impacts our ability to be at our best each time we strap up those workout sneakers. When you have a plan you can adjust, adapt, and move forward knowing exactly what you need to do to get better.
When you don’t have a plan - you’ll end up cycling up and down, hitting highs and lows without knowing what to do to change that.
If you want to look like an athlete, you need to train like one
If you take a look at those people who you aspire to look like - more often than not they are athletes who train for a sport. Look at a sprinter, a marathon runner, a baseball player or gymnast.
What do they all have in common? They train with a purpose.
Now I’m not saying you need to train to be the next Lebron James or Simone Biles but just recognize that training is the map that can get you to look and feel better.
And hell - you might not even want to “look like an athlete”. And that’s okay - you might have your own goal of just being a great parent for your kids who can keep up with them. You don’t need to look like a superstar athlete to do this.
However, just know that in order to really attain your best, you need to do more than just shoot by the seat of your pants with random movement week to week.
You will eventually get there, but do you have the patience to wait years of random exercise to get there?
I hope that this helps to adjust your perspective on the importance of training vs working out.
Now find that map and hit those goals...you got this!