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The Difference Between ‘Exercise’ and ‘Training’

Sometimes people are confused as to why I always make a distinction between ‘training’ and ‘exercise’. After all, isn’t ‘training’, “the thing that athletes do?”. It is, and I’m going to outline exactly why you should be doing it too if you want results.


Exercise is something that you do for the feeling it gives you today. With exercise, what you do, why you do it, or how you do it doesn’t matter - so long as it leaves you sweaty and feeling like you’ve done something good. Therefore exercise could be defined as unstructured recreational activity.

Examples of this include: spin classes, F45, P90X, step aerobics, bums n’ tums etc. You’ll notice that these are by far the most popular services offered in a gym. Why? Because it requires no long term commitment or thinking on your part. You just pay whatever they charge for the class (usually € 10 - 15) and do whatever the instructor shouts at you for an hour or so. When it’s done, you feel exhausted and therefore justified in your investment.

These classes are fine for beginners, because beginners are completely unadapted to training. This means that any kind of movement that approaches the word 'intense' will result in increased strength and fitness. BUT, this improvement is VERY short lived. In fact the people running these classes are banking on you showing up at most 2 or 3 times in a row. Any more consistency would quickly lead you to realise that you're not seeing improvements.


Training on the other hand is a goals-based approach that is based upon a logical plan. It is the process of going from point A to point B. It requires consistency, planning, and patience. It doesn’t care about how you feel, but it does care a lot about your results. And when it comes to results, training is by far superior to exercise.

When training, everything is planned in advance: the number of days you will train, the exercises you will do, sets, reps, etc. Another unique aspect of the training process is the logging of results. During or after each session, you record exactly what you did, so that next time you will know what needs to be done to improve. If your log says you did 50kg last week, then this week calls for 52.5kg, and so forth.

This process is always going to work best when overseen by a competent coach, as they have the experience necessary to create an appropriate programme, identify when or why there is a problem, as well as teach you how to perform exercises correctly. Understandably, this is not financially feasible for everyone. Lucky for you, there are literally dozens of great strength programmes available on the interwebs for you to follow.

Delayed Gratification

I’ve trained enough people by now to know that training is not for everyone, particularly in the modern instant-gratification-driven world. This approach is for those who want more than just to ‘get a bit fitter’ or ‘lose a bit of body fat’. It’s for people who want to become a stronger version of themselves physically and mentally.

I can assure you that the feeling of reaching a goal that you've been dilligently working toward for weeks/months is much more satisfying than collapsing in a pool of your sweat from 1000 burpees and kettlebell swings.

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