By Cori McDougald, Massif Athletics and Massif Remote Coach

There are three key differences between the commonly used fitness phrases; training and working out. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Does it matter?” As a coach of many different types of athletes ranging from wildland firefighters to Olympic weightlifters, I am going to answer that question for you and say, “YES! It matters.” Read on and I’ll give you three examples of how they differ, but I am sure you could come up with plenty more and honestly, it probably varies widely from individual to individual. Below are just some of my own coaching insights.

Training has a Why

When I initially start working with an athlete (yes, if you are working out, you ARE an athlete), I first ask them why they need coaching. This isn’t as simple as wanting to lose 10 pounds or PR by 5lb on their back squat, but its deeper. It’s the “I’m going to stay alive and thrive for my children when they need me most” and the “If I don’t take control of my health and fitness, I’m not sure how much longer I can continue on with day to day…” or the “I’m reckless and programming for myself or following templates are leading me to burnout and some serious hormonal imbalances and/or injury…” or "I just want to be better at (x)." The honest, real why. For higher level athletes, it could also be more along the lines of attaining a higher level in their sport, winning a specific event or championship, or simply being the best team member that they can possibly be.

Once we can identify the real why of training, each training session has new meaning. Both coach and athlete have a common understanding of the overall goal. There is a long term plan put in place to reach those goals and attain said results. This makes every movement in every training session have purpose. Ex: What I’m doing today matters for next week, next month, next year…. It’s all a part of the big plan. Coach has my best interest at hand and today will have a positive impact on my future.

Training has a different Mindset

Now you can see how identifying your why can lead to a completely different perspective on day to day training sessions. When we compare the phrases “I’m going to go work out” vs. “I’ve got a training session” we can already hear the immediate shift of importance towards the training session. A workout could be almost anything; run, bike, yoga, lifting, group fitness class…. But training has a specific purpose in the grand scheme. Why are we running, lifting, biking, or doing yoga? Training today is almost certainly preparation for training sessions down the road. It is completing what needs to be done today, so you’ll be better tomorrow. You are really rolling the dice with “working out” as it may or may not have an impact on your overall goals or help you reach positive progress.

Training also encompasses other important aspects that keep the body healthy, such as mobility, sleep prioritization, food as fuel, massage, meditation, social balance, etc. When most people work out, they tend to neglect these details that can have almost as much impact on their progress as the training itself. What makes athletes successful in their training is planning and constant preparation. Athletes don’t necessarily prepare for workouts, but they do prepare for training sessions.

Training takes Mental Preparation and Resiliency

There is something to be said about not always having to be “training for something”. Its healthy to take a deload or an off season where body and mind are restored and eagerness for training is fostered again. I would argue that this could also be considered training in itself, but some might refer to it as “just a workout”, or a series or workouts, or almost intuitive working out. In this case, the athlete might work out instead of train, with an emphasis on having fun, breathing and moving, and not having to mentally dig deep for each session.

Just the opposite, when we are training, we are also working on building up mental resiliency. There are times where your training is meant to not only challenge you physically, but also take you to a deep, dark place where you might question yourself and whether or not to keep going. Breaking down these barriers in the mind will ultimately lead to more positive mental growth, but if the athlete is not 100% invested in their training and their why (or if they were just “working out”)…it might cause them to quit! Part of training is pushing through the challenges because the end goal is larger than yourself. No matter what that takes. Maybe it means redefining your why, or your perspective on each training session, or going the extra mile the other 23 hours of the day with extra mobility, food, or sleep.

Ultimately, the goal of most is to see progress, whether that means they are “working out” or “training”. From the outside, the terms are synonymous, but if you look deeper, training has a pretty powerful meaning and its own mindset. I challenge you to look deeper into your own training and start calling your workouts, your training sessions!

At Massif, We are here to help and guide you, no matter what your WHY is.