Encouraging Health and Happiness

Exercise vs Training. What’s the Difference?

Coach’s Corner By Scott A. Jansen

c5dbcb27-95f7-4739-90b7-fffc0235244eI started lifting weights when I was 14 in freshman football. I could barely bench press the bar and the squat rack was terrifying. Since then, the journey of discovery of movement and exercise has been vast. Something I’ve been exposed to along that journey is worth sharing. It’s the difference between exercising and training.


Exercise is essential for a healthy life. It’s hard to imagine, but back in our grandparents’ day they thought you had a finite amount of energy and it should be used to work not play. “Play” these days is one of the buzzwords used by every organization from the NFL to the American Heart Association. They’re looking to get our youth moving more frequently. One such example is “Play 60” designed by the NFL to have children move for 60 minutes a day.

This brings up the question, what is exercise?

Exercising is simply moving your body for something other than a defined purpose. Exercise is movement designed to improve your health in multiple different ways. When I think of exercising Jack LaLanne immediately pops in my head. He did invent the “Jumping Jack” after all!

Modern day versions of exercise are everywhere. Our fitness facilities have group exercise classes (GX) that are designed to put large amounts of people in a room doing the same type of activity. That can range from a step class, Tabata or Interval, Bootcamp, to BodyPump (Les Mills). The digital or TV infomercial versions are P90X (Beachbody), 21 Day Fix (Beachbody), or Insanity (Beachbody).

Exercise also comes in “Small Box” (facility specifically designed for one type of movement) versions. These types would include Cross Fit Gyms, Bare (pick your brand), Spin Gyms (Flywheel), and Martial Arts/ Boxing Gyms.

Exercise is healthy for your cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, and brain (coordination/balance).

Negatives of Exercise

After the years I spent working in the Physical Therapy field I learned that exercise can be bad.  This comes in several fashions:

  1. Repetitive Motion– The same type of movement done repetitively can aggregate or strain tendons and ligaments. Often, these movements are done in a particular range of motion which is limited (think cycling)
  2. One Size Fits All– When entering most exercise gyms or classes, the person isn’t typically assessed for injury or fitness level. This can lead to people getting injured trying to exercise at a level they are not ready for yet. All bodies aren’t designed the same and have different thresholds of cardiovascular health, strength, mobility, and flexibility.
  3. Not Progressive Enough– Exercise typically stays consistent as it’s designed for movement as its primary function and not specific to a goal other than health improvements and body fat reduction. However, as the same prescribed movements are done over and over, the benefits of those exercises are lost as the body adapts creating a diminishing return on the investment of time and effort.
  4. Over Training/Under Training– If left alone to assess or determine their own program design, people might be over or even under training to achieve their goals. They could be working just as hard and seeing different or diminished results.  The component of Rest is often forgotten and is essential at maximizing strength gains.


Training is defined as the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior usually designed for a purpose.

Training is what I’ve spent my life doing as an athlete as well as a Fitness Expert and Coach. Helping individuals become better is my passion.

The trainers in fitness centers and gyms across the country are tasked with helping people reach their specific goals. These goals can be sport specific or activity driven (climbing, or hiking). My favorite focus is to assist people to be better at their purpose in life. I love to hear the feedback when they come back after an event or after they’ve worked hard at accomplishing something and reached their goals. It’s infectious and something we strive to do…help people improve.

Training is a system designed to put together a group of smaller points or objectives to accomplish the goals. Some of these objectives could include: Increased mobility and flexibility, improved strength in specific motor patterns that should be specific to the desired goal, increased cardiovascular output and endurance, improved coordination and balance at the specific sport or activity, and body composition changes can be incorporated if part of the goal.

Training should have the philosophy that each individual is unique. Each person should have a calculated plan put in place taking into account any injuries, challenges/weaknesses, strengths, and physical background or history they may have.

Training is accomplished with a coach or trainer to assess all of the above to assure success and accomplishment.


Exercise is an activity. Training is a specific activity with a clear purpose.

I believe every person can incorporate both exercising and training into their overall health and wellness plan. Understanding what each activity is designed for and its purpose is the key to success. Please help yourself and don’t use random selection and hope for a specific desired outcome.

Ask any fitness professional for some basic help to create a plan specifically designed for you. Also, don’t forget to make fitness fun, incorporate friends and family. Spend time with those you care about and help them get healthy too!

I hope this has been helpful. I truly want everyone to get the most efficient path that leads to health and happiness.

Stay Healthy and Active,

Scott A. Jansen
Magnuson Athletic Club Fitness Manager


Comments are closed.