The Difference Between Training & Exercising

The other day I had a discussion with a leader who is an ex-professional athlete. He brought up that he hardly ever exercises anymore, even though he was a pro-athlete when he was younger. When he had a goal to achieve, he was all in. He trained like a maniac. Now, without a goal, he’s not exercising at all.

I had the same thought recently when on a run. Let me be clear – I’m using the term “run” very generously. I’m built more like a fighter, so my running is closer to lumbering than anything else. Nevertheless, I enjoy it. MOST of the time.

The picture above is from a 36-hour adventure race, The Endeavor Challenge, that a couple of friends and I did 3 or 4 years ago. The race involved miles of hiking and running, swimming in cold mountain lakes, strength challenges, obstacles, two kinds of rappelling, and several hours of night navigation in the mountains near Bear Valley. I was about 57 at the time and the photo shows one of the many obstacles we endured. It was at hour 12 (we started at 4am) when we had to climb up this wall and then rappel down.

In these kinds of races, my friends and I are typically the oldest, if not the oldest, competitors. And we never come in last. The Endeavor Challenge was conceived and organized by a group of ex-Army Rangers who are far younger and are in exceptional shape. So, in order to enter and finish this type of race, especially at our age, you have to seriously train.

Goal-Focused Training Vs. Exercising

Training requires that you push through things that are uncomfortable. You have to be consistent and goal-focused. You also have to manage your recovery between training sessions very carefully (especially as you get older). It is often very satisfying, but also, frequently painful and frustrating.

Exercising can be or should be, less painful and more enjoyable. It can feel relaxing, invigorating, and put you into a nice flow state (depending on what you are doing). There are no major goals. Exercising is also part of training, keeping your body active, without too much intensity.

The trick is remembering what you are doing, when you’re doing it, and not confusing the two. Frequently when I’m training for a race, I will often have to remind myself “you’re training, not exercising”. Almost instantaneously, that helps me deal with the pain and discouragement I might be feeling in the moment, especially when I’m running.

Are You Training or Exercising At Work?

I think you can take this concept to your work. When you’re training at work, you are definitely doing something uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the final push before a product launch. Maybe it’s picking up that phone one more time near the end of the quarter to make your number. Maybe it’s having that crucial conversation you’ve been dreading. This is training. You’re training to be better at something that matters to you. You’re training to be an even better leader.

There’s also room for “exercise” at work. Sometimes you just need to get some stuff done. Enjoy the process of what you’re doing, and hopefully have some fun. Perhaps you need to be in the exercise zone at work because what’s going on outside of work is going to take all of your extra training energy.

The agile development framework is a great example of how these ideas are often put to use in the software development world. There are times for sprints. There are times for longer, easy jogs. One is training. The other is exercising.

Be Intentional

If you find that you’ve lost a little bit of your edge at work, it might be a sign that you need to move out of exercise mode and into training mode. This is where a leadership coach can be helpful. It’s not unlike hiring a coach for physical training. Coaches snap you out of an “everyday” mode and can help you expand your edge. On the other hand, if you’re feeling burnt out and your energy stores are depleted, it might be time to move out of training for a bit. It’s time to reflect and enjoy what you’ve accomplished so far. For high achievers, this can be very unfamiliar territory.

Which mode – training or exercising – are you in right now at work? If you’re not sure, now might be the time to stop and take stock, and perhaps refuel for your next challenge.

#Leadership #GoalAchievement #Resilience