Written by Dave Stogsdill
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” ― Bill Gates
Training vs. exercise
All too often in the fitness industry, I hear clients say they want to lose 20 pounds, get “back in shape,” or “earn” their next meal. While those have merit on the surface level, they lack a deeper connection to the intention of training. To many, exercise is seen as an opportunity to move your body, get sweaty, and burn calories – all good things! However, this idea of exercise lends itself to focusing on the effort of the day, rather than viewing it through a lens that allows us to see the bigger picture.
Training is using exercise as a tool to develop a better sense of awareness about our abilities and limitations, and it informs how we should continue to train to progress. If you shift your mindset away from “punishing yourself” with exercise to burn off the weekend calories, you can create a more optimistic and motivating sense of what can be accomplished through intentional, progressive training.
Training is all about goal-setting. Goals can help you give intention to your workouts so there is a more deeply ingrained “why” that transcends the fried food over the weekend. Training takes the dream of “getting in shape” and builds a path to success. A proper training program should not only help you achieve the goals you initially set out, but along the way, teach you more about what else you may want and how to progress to get there. The benefit of training comes from establishing clear goals, and then deconstructing the path to get there into incremental steps.
Setting smart goals
In general, there tend to be three areas of focus for training: Performance and Sport, Health and Longevity, and Aesthetics and Physique. Although they all have value, when setting goals for training, it is not possible to work toward all three to their maximum potential. For example, while having a rock hard 12-pack and 6% body fat looks impressive aesthetically, you often have to be in extreme caloric deficits to achieve those results, which directly impacts your performance, and potentially long-term, your health; or a professional football player will train for peak performance on the field often at the expense of their bodies (broken limbs, concussions, etc.).
Let’s take a closer look at the example goal of losing 20 pounds of fat in each category:
Performance and Sport: For a performance-minded client, this would allow them to perform more pull ups, run faster, or jump higher with less overall fatigue. Granted, if they were a lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, losing 20 pounds doesn’t serve their performance goals, and would likely be training the opposite direction.
Health and Longevity: From the perspective of training for health and longevity, clients will focus on building muscle and losing fat through a sustainable approach to fitness. This approach has many benefits like decreasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and other related illnesses.
Aesthetics and Physique: In my experience, most clients asking for this goal tend to actually fall into one of the other two categories more often than not. That being said, physique competitors, magazine models and the like will take extreme efforts to shred the last few pounds of body fat (typically not 20 lbs) before the big day, and this takes precedence over Health or Performance.
Find your why and stick with it
Training for each of these takes a drastically different approach, and exercising alone, especially sporadically, won’t drive the results you might be looking for. It’s important to ask what you are training for, and what you want to achieve from all your effort in AND out of the gym? And, most importantly, WHY do you want what you want?
Regardless of what path you want to take in your training, it’s important you understand your “why,” because no matter what goals you establish, it is consistency over the long run that will lead you to success! Week over week, month after month, and year by year, checking in with your goals, noting your progress, and assessing how, or if, your goals have shifted or changed. This is where a coach or personal trainer becomes incredibly valuable. If you’re new to training, goal-setting, and seeing the bigger picture, sometimes asking for help is the best first step!