The Hamilton Spectator

Exercise vs. activity vs. training

Being ‘in training’ is a temporary state to be endured for future benefit


I find it really interestin­g when I get the same comments, over and over, from different people in different situations and locations totally unrelated to each other.

Recently, I’ve had a number of clients comment on the training routines and specific exercises that I’ve chosen for them as a way to keep moving toward their goals. The comment is usually something like, “These aren’t really my favourite exercises. I don’t like them that much, but I’ll still do them.” Interestin­g.

My initial thought is always; what does “liking” an exercise have to do with getting stronger and fitter and moving in the stated direction of one’s goal? With a little more thought, however, I’ve realized that not everyone recognizes the difference between training, exercising and being “active.” All three are extremely important in the maintenanc­e of a healthy body and mind and should be practised over a lifetime to be able to engage in the things you love for as long as you can.

As a personal trainer, I emphasize greatly to my clients (and readers) that as much activity as possible should be built into our lives, simply as a way of living — from raking leaves to walking the dog to running errands by foot instead of driving. All of these activities have value in keeping the body fit while providing stimuli to keep the mind sharp and resilient against anxiety, worry and depression.

Being active is simply a way of being and a default to the things that aren’t always convenient, but keep us moving and engaged physically and mentally.

“Exercise,” on the other hand, is movement with specific intention. The definition of exercise from the Oxford Languages online dictionary is “activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.” While some activities might feel like exercise, the main intention for doing them is not about sustaining health and fitness — that is a fortunate side effect of the activity itself.

Additional­ly, “training” or being “in training” can be thought of as exercise performed with a very specific outcome in mind, often requiring a period of performing challengin­g exercises that aren’t particular­ly “pleasant” (That definition comes from yours truly!). If you have ever graduated with a university diploma or mastered a musical instrument, you’ll understand the value of pushing past uncomforta­ble, challengin­g tasks to reach a level of proficienc­y. In essence, it means suffering a bit now to reap the rewards later on.

When designing or planning the ultimate healthy lifestyle plan, all three elements should be included.

The best life for everyone is one that includes a fair amount of activity (suitable to whatever your ability levels are), some intentiona­l, dedicated exercise … and some training when it is time to get to a new level.

What I have seen over the years with people who only exercise and never “train” is that they follow the idea that they should be doing things that they enjoy so that they will have a better chance of sticking to them long-term. It’s a great idea, but if you never challenge yourself, your improvemen­t will level off and you’ll start to backslide before realizing your true potential.

Imagine trying to prepare for a challengin­g hiking/kayaking/biking trip by doing easy stretching, walking and light dumbbell exercises. As great as that workout might seem, it would no longer be appropriat­e based on your needs. With a specific goal in sight, the time would be right to start training for the event with challengin­g activities that would have you ready to conquer your trip in the most comfortabl­e and safest way possible.

The same logic can be applied to an upcoming hockey or ski season, or even before a major surgery that requires the fittest body possible for the easiest recovery. In fact, it can even be applied to someone who has no clear physical goals, but simply wants to live a long, vibrant life. There are just too many benefits from being “in training” to ignore them.

In returning to my original observatio­n of clients who comment that they don’t necessaril­y “like” every exercise or routine, I’d like to add another thought: the relationsh­ip between activity, exercise and training really comes down to a matter of balance and priorities.

Activity and exercise should be built into our everyday lives. This gives us a great base from which to move into training mode when new challenges or goals present themselves.

Think of being “in training” as a temporary state that needs to be endured from time to time when we have a higher goal in front of us, like a sports team that has a training camp before its season begins. Very often it has a defined start and end date before settling back into a more manageable, and likable, routine.

 ?? DREAMSTIME ?? When one is in training for a specific outcome, exercise selection often includes movements that are challengin­g and not entirely pleasurabl­e due to their intensity.
DREAMSTIME When one is in training for a specific outcome, exercise selection often includes movements that are challengin­g and not entirely pleasurabl­e due to their intensity.
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