Are you “working out,” or “training”?

February 22nd, 2010


Sunday’s workout was okay — squats, bench presses, and lots of stretching. Overall, though, February has been a hollow month for me in terms of fitness: a few workouts, but no consistent progress, and I’m nowhere near the goals I set out for myself.

It’s not like the frustration is gnawing away at me, but it has led me to think more about Dave Tate’s advice on pursuing one’s real priorities, plus my own advice for sticking with a workout program.

Here’s what struck me: plenty of people, myself included, “work out” regularly — often without ever hitting any particular milestone. Or, if they hit a milestone, it’s an oh-by-the-way side effect of what they’ve been doing, rather than the fruit of a cherished or methodical pursuit.

Contrast this to how the winter Olympians we’re watching every night train for years on end to achieve a particular goal. I’ve been struck by how many of the competitors have said, both before and after finding out whether they won, that they’re happy with the outcome regardless because they know that they have trained as hard as they could and then given their absolute best effort in competition.

My goal now is to go back to the drawing board to decide (a) what I want to train for, and (b) how I’m going to go about it.

What are you training for?


(Image by snakemanrob, used under a CC-Noncommercial license.)

7 Responses to “Are you “working out,” or “training”?”

  1. Kyle Flaherty Says:

    Tim, training has always worked better for me in the short and long term than working out, although I got stuck in the latter for several years. I just passed one of my training goals and I’m struggling now to figure out what my next one should be, in the meantime I can feel myself falling back into the “working out” camp and need to shock myself back into the training regimen.

    The nice part of training is that it incorporates an actual date to your personal goal. For months I knew that I was going to be running a half-marathon on Feb. 14th. The Olympians have known for 4 years the dates they needed to be ready. Thus I think it is important to set personal goals, but also mark it with a true test on a particular day. I seem to excel when I have that date circled on my calendar, build in a training schedule to alert me each day and work to that end goal.

    Now I need to find my next one.


  2. Mark Larson Says:

    I’ve got my first ultramarathon (only a 50k/31miler) in early April. This is also my first marathon. Eep. It’s kind of a relief to know that I won’t be able to run the whole thing. I will walk with pride when I must!

    And I have to agree with Kyle above. Having a specific goal/deadline/trial to look forward to makes a huge difference in my enthusiasm. A little eustress goes a long way.

  3. Tim Walker Says:

    Kyle — Maybe it’s time for a strength goal? Or a triathlon? Or a trail run? You live in a great neck of the woods for all of this.

    Mark — You know I loves me some eustress. Rock on.

  4. Renee Hopkins Says:

    Tim, do you know Doug Kelsey? He’s founder of the Austin physical therapy clinic called Sports Center. I rehabbed plantar fasciitis there a couple of years ago.

    You’d like his blogs: and

    :) renee

  5. deb roby Says:

    What am I training for? I have personal goals – but I recognize they really mean little in the world. So, yes, how does bench pressing 135# translate into really traning for something?

    Hmm.. you’ve got me thinking… Why am I working out?

  6. Tim Walker Says:

    Renee — I don’t know Doug — thanks for the links.

    Deb — Maybe you’re training to bench press 140#. That’s “really training,” in my book, so long as you’re diligently going after that target.

  7. What I’ve Learned So Far » Blog Archive » Workout for 27 February 2010. Says:

    […] Last week’s squat workout seemed to tweak my calves a little bit — not bad, not much, but enough to make me cautious for a few days. (It’s been two and a half years since I tore the medial head of my left gastrocnemius . . . but the memories are fresh.) […]

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