Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Exercise vs. Training, Immediate vs. the Goal

It's worth breaking out workouts into ones that lead to long term goals, and ones that have an immediate effect you like.

In this article by Mark Rippetoe on T-Nation, discussing Crossfit, is a great little distinction. According to Rippetoe:

"Exercise is fun today. Well, it may not be fun, but you've convinced yourself to do it today because you perceive that the effect you produce today is of benefit to you today. You "smashed" or "crushed" or "smoked" that workout... today. Same as the kids in front of the dumbbell rack at the gym catching an arm pump, the workout was about how it made you feel, good or bad, today."

In contrast, Training is about the process you undertake to generate a specific result later, maybe much later, the workouts of which are merely the constituents of the process. Training may even involve a light day that you perceive to be a waste of time if you only consider
today."

This is an extremely common problem in exercise (and in diets for any kind of goal.) People want both the long-term effects of training (the six-pack abs, the big biceps, the crushingly huge deadlift, the ability to jump and run and swim with ease) but focus on how the day's workout felt.

Focusing on the immediate results isn't very productive, but it's easy and it's hard to focus on long-term goals when you don't have the knowledge and expertise to know it is working and making you better.

I've done workouts that left me smashed but didn't make me better. I've done workouts that were puzzlingly easy, but which demonstrably made me better in the long run (HICT springs to mind, driving down my resting heart rate and driving up my recovery rate.)

But in general, you want a long-term plan that will get you where are going. You don't want to focus on how the workouts make you feel but how they add up.

Naturally you can go too far the other way - focusing so much on the goal that you miss being in the here-and-now and reacting to what is needed here and now. But in general, for training, your workouts should build towards some long-term goal. That long-term goal can be progressive gains, improved health, massive strength, or just maintaining what you have without incurring injuries. The idea of "Training" as "What can I do today to get me the end result I want?" vs. "Exercise" as "What can I do to entertain myself now?" is a nice distinction. It's possible to quibble over the terms, but Long Term Results vs. Short Term Results is a legitimate distinction to make. I think the distinction Mark Rippetoe made is useful and worth keeping in mind when you think about your exercise routine and its long-term effects.

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