Angshuman Dutta

You wake up every morning, pack on your favourite gym apparel, and head to the gym; you sweat it out, drink your protein shake, and head back home; and you repeat this every day. This is the schedule millions of people follow every morning across the globe. So, how would you define this morning session of yours – is it a workout or a training? Two similar, but definitely not synonymous, words. If the session in the morning is a planned part of a larger programme designed to improve your performance consistently, it is “training”. If, on the other hand, you just follow the same routine that you have been doing since forever, or you keep changing your programme, you are “working out”.

Now, you may wonder what the fuss is all about. After all, you are sweating; you are getting a good pump – it’s all that matters, right? Well, yes and no. If movement and cardiovascular stimulation is the goal, you are doing perfectly fine. Movement is the key and any form of exercise is going to help. In that case, you can change your programme every month, every week or every day! You will still get the benefits of working out. However, if you have a fitness goal which you want to achieve or you are an athlete with a particular requirement, you cannot simply just work out – you need to be training. The fundamental difference between the two is that training works on the principle of what we refer to in fitness sciences as periodisation. This basically means breaking down your fitness goal into small and well-defined cycles, with clear intent and planning.

Training is not supposed to only make you feel exhausted and sweat. Of course you will sweat, you will get tired and exhausted, but you should be getting better with every session and every session should be taking you closer to your goal.

Let us take a very common example here: a lot of people want to lose fat and build muscles at the same time. Now, we have to understand that the two are opposing goals. Fat loss is a catabolic process and muscle-building is an anabolic one. Achieving both at the same time is not possible. What one may realistically hope to achieve is minimise muscle loss while losing fat. So, in this case, the first phase of training would be planning a programme primarily for losing fat and the same programme would have space for a muscle-building plan at the end of a specific timeframe. When done methodically, you will end up with lean muscle growth, low fat percentage and overall improvement in health parameters. If done without planning, you would most likely end up with skinny fat, i.e., losing fat and muscle at the same time and ending up skinny but with a lopsided body composition – low muscle and high fat percentage.

This process is very important to comprehend, especially for young athletes who are looking to build a career in sports. Strength and conditioning is a crucial part of any sports training. A careful selection of a training centre and a trainer is crucial and may have a greater impact on an athlete’s development than most people consider. While skill training is important, conditioning work is the backbone of skill training. A well-conditioned athlete will be stronger, faster, more agile, and have greater proprioception; they will also have lesser chances of injury.

Next time you strap on your gym shoes, just pause for a moment and think – are you training or working out? A simple understanding of this will make all the difference.

(The writer Angshuman Dutta is a fitness educator, coach and consultant. He can be contacted at [email protected])