Vail Daily column: Embrace easy workouts for long-term fitness |

Vail Daily column: Embrace easy workouts for long-term fitness

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

I train a handful of tough characters. I am often criticized by these students that I am too easy on them during the workouts. It’s a good affirmation that the programming is just right when I hear these snide remarks. Please learn to embrace easy workouts, folks. I wish I had learned earlier in my career that the process of training is vastly different from exercise, even within the context of non-athletes.

Exercise is what most healthy adults participate in, ideally each day. By the way, there is nothing wrong with vanilla exercise. Exercise is the productive application of movement to invoke a stress response in the present time to raise the heart rate, increase blood flow, sweat and burn off energy. Exercise has great benefits that are beyond the scope of training. The implication with exercise is that it doesn’t take any long-term specific goals into consideration. Exercise is a means to become vaguely “healthier or more fit.”

Training on the other hand, is the process by which we organize a systematic learning schedule of participatory physical, mental, and nutritional tasks to accomplish very specific measurable goals.


For example, an advanced lifter might decide to enter his first lifting competition. Joe can currently squat a maximum of 500 pounds for one repetition. Joe’s long-term goal in six months is to squat 650 pounds for one repetition. Currently on his heavy day, Joe squats 450 pounds for three sets of five repetitions. Well, that’s 6,750 pounds he squatted and put into the bank. On his light day, he squats 400 pounds for three sets of two repetitions. It’s a walk in the park and he barely breaks a sweat. But from a training perspective, he still squatted 2,400 pounds.

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It’s akin with a retirement savings account. It’s not painful at all for most people to put $165 a month in the bank towards a retirement goal. Assuming at 18 years of age, Joe puts 10 percent away of his paltry income of $20,000 a year, by 67, he would have $800,000 saved. That small monthly amount of damage put into the total picture seems so insignificant, Joe could argue, “Gee, I’m never going to get there.”

Even on lighter workout days on the road to the end goal, you are putting money into the bank!


The late Brian Petty — a colorful Philly Gent behind whose scarred-by-bare-knuckle-boxing mug hides razor-sharp intelligence and wit — has a few things to say on the subject of performing hard workouts:

“The difference between exercising and training is having a point. Exercise is done to waste energy — burn calories — or to “blow off steam,” excess mental and physical energy, and tension. Training is done in order to improve something — strength, endurance, neuromuscular control, etc. Exercise is a singular event with an immediate goal. The success of training can only be judged by changes over time in performance. Exercise doesn’t have a point beyond the immediate session — if you leave the gym a sweaty mess, it was a good exercise session or “workout.” If you show up every day and breathe hard and get tired and sweaty, you may consider yourself to be successful at exercise.”

“By contrast, training can be judged as a success if it works — that is, if after an appropriate amount of time you can clearly show improved capacity for physical work. You may show up every day and push and pull and grunt and sweat and even limp to your car — but be terribly unsuccessful at training, if over time you are not getting any stronger, faster, leaner, more agile, better at your chosen sport, etc.”

“Swinging a weight around with the expressed goal of becoming extremely fatigued is what I would do if I had a lobotomy. With a frontal lobotomy destroying my ability to plan over the long term, I would believe that the goal of exercise was achieving a certain specific response — I would search for the immediate effect of exercise. I would forget that as biological organisms, we not only respond in the short term to a stimulus, but also adapt in the long term to the sum total of stimuli we are presented with — so long as we are able to recover. The idea that anything that made me horrendously fatigued, to the point of nausea, vomiting, dehydration, hyponatremia, and even rhabdomyolysis, would constitute an effective — or “killer” — workout would appeal to my zombie-like, short-term-thinking mind. I would strive in my workouts for “failure,” or forcing my body to stop working. Fascinated by the immediate effects of exercise and unable to plan, I would work at top voluntary intensity every time I exercised, always attempting to maximally disrupt my body functions. I would also be unable to follow a program, so I would change exercises constantly, attempting to “confuse” my body and prevent it from “getting used to” my exercise sessions. I would change aimlessly, regardless of whether the exercises were useful or dangerous, choosing them solely based on how bad they made me feel. If you want pain, learn Muay Thai. If you want to learn about failure, play golf. If you want to vomit, drink syrup of ipecac. If you want to become stronger and fit, train appropriately.”

An easy workout is a great workout people. Embrace the easy. Put money into the bank. We will test your mettle at some point. Will you be ready for it?

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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