Vail Daily column: The difference between exercising and training |

Vail Daily column: The difference between exercising and training

I have been coaching and training all walks of life for 10 years in the Vail Valley. I have been studying and passionately practicing all things iron, game and fitness for 18 years. Over these years, I have observed many trends and peculiar habits of exercisers and what these people do within the gym culture to create fitness. Most people I have observed are overweight, under developed and relatively weak. Have you ever given up on your New Year’s resolution around mid-January?

I don’t think most people know what fitness means or know how to achieve whatever it is they are after. After all, as I have stated before in other articles, fitness is merely the ability to perform a very specific physical task successfully with skill and precision. Fitness is task specific and therefore means different things for every person. The puzzling thing is that most people I have observed walk into the gym, lounge on the treadmill for 30 minutes, hit a few strength machines, lay in a pool of sweat on the ground, stretch and hit the showers.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, by the way. All forms of exercise are good for you. The approaches to vanilla exercise are endless and have their value. The benefits of such are beyond the scope of this article.

Fitness is task specific. Training, on the other hand, is different from exercising. It is planned, specific programming that has measurable outcomes. A goal of running a five-minute mile is very specific, and the nature of the training should be directed to achieve this. Where training programs get fuzzy is when people just want to “look good and be healthy.” This is admirable, but the goal is too subjective to accurately detail what a program looks like to achieve this. But if this person is a male and states he wants to be 200 pounds, have 10 percent body fat and look like the guy on the cover of the current Men’s Health magazine, now we’re getting somewhere.

Frankly, a lot of people who desperately want to achieve a certain look. It always surprises me why they go about training the way they do. It’s like the mother of three who is trying to regain her figure by attempting to run three miles a day on the treadmill and perform countless crunches to eliminate the spare tire around her waist. No wonder she gets frustrated and quits trying by Jan. 14 every year. She would be better off with a well-rounded approach of weight training, moderate amounts of cardiorespiratory exercise and extreme attention to dietary detail.

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The point is not to paint a picture that you need a detailed program with flow charts and a scale to weigh your food. It is, rather, to encourage you to take an honest hard look at why you are exercising and whether you are getting the results you desire. If you’re like most people and just want to be healthy, relieve stress and do what the doctor ordered, the elliptical, strength machines and pool of sweat awaits you. But if you want real results that will transform your fitness, you must create specific goals and find a good coach who can develop a program that will get you where you need to go.

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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