Training vs. Working Out—Yes, There Is a Difference!

Fitness training vs. working out, explained

By now, you probably have an intuitive understanding of what working out is—an elevated heart rate, sweat, and shortness of breath all being essential parts of the equation. Fitness training, on the other hand, is likely a little more foreign.

Long story short: While some people may use the two terms interchangeably, there actually is a distinct difference (and use case!) between them.

Wondering if training is right for you? To get you ready for the elevated Programs 2.0 experience, we’re clearing up the misconceptions and giving you the full scoop on all things training with Kat E., the obé pro behind our fan-fave Gym Strong program.

What’s the Difference?

Simply put: When you train, you are working towards a specific goal and manipulate variables to see progress in your body over time, Kat explains. “When you work out, you’re taking classes and putting in the effort—but there’s no through line or specific outcome to dictate your journey.”

In other words, you work out to satisfy your immediate needs: to move your body, rack up your daily exercise minutes, sweat, and stay fit. Exercising also helps boost your mood, shake out stress, and benefit your physical (and mental!) health. Whatever modality you prefer, the goal of exercising is to maintain your fitness—you don’t need to have a long-term plan to get it done.

Your raison d’etre (aka reason why) is much more definitive when you train. With training, you’re exercising for a very specific physical outcome, whether that’s to change your body composition, get ready for motherhood, compete in a race, recover from an injury, or level up your strength game.

The overall process is more important than any of the individual workouts (or “sessions”), so you’re zooming out and considering the week-to-week instead of the day-by-day. There’s a systematic plan to guide you to reach your maximum fitness potential—what the fitness world calls peaking.

In training, improvement is always a key metric, and intention is everything. “It’s a much more results-oriented process with a specific training effect in mind,” Kat notes.

When (and Why) Should You Go for Fitness Training?

There’s a few great reasons to stop working out and start fitness training. Maybe you need to get ready for a specific event (like a race), want to push your fitness to a new level, or feel like your progress from exercise alone is slowing down. No matter what your motivation, if there’s a measurable marker of your physicality you’re trying to enhance, this can be the perfect next step for you.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they’re trying to lose weight, improve their endurance, or get stronger is that they’ll pick a workout just because it feels hard, but it may not actually be designed to create the effect they’re looking to achieve in their body,” Kat explains. Your level of exhaustion after the workout isn’t necessarily the best barometer of progress, she continues. The truth is, when it comes to exercise, training smarter often triumphs working out harder.

“If I design something that is very intentional week to week, or something that teaches your body how to recover effectively so it can push again, the amount of output I’ll get from you will be so much more,” explains Kat. And that drives more drastic results.

Essentially, you’re increasing the demand on your body so it can adapt, recover, and gain additional skills or boost its capacity over time. “​​Following a more specific, progressive plan over time is going to make a big difference for a lot of people in terms of their expectations in the gym, what they can get out of their time, and also how they’re going to feel later on.”

The Ingredients of a Fitness Training Program

While you’ll recognize many of the same elements you know and love from your regular obé classes throughout our new training programs, the overall progressive format is entirely new. Here, what to expect, and the three ingredients that make training one of the best ways to conquer your goals.

Ingredient #1: Continuity

Every training program will have some continuity in the exercise selection over time. Translation: You’ll be practicing the same movements over and over (don’t worry, not forever), with the intention of improving them—whether they’re squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, or whatever fits the modality.

“The best teacher you’re ever going to have in a gym is high quality reps performed over time,” says Kat. And you’ll be in good company, too. “Even the most elite athletes are always squatting, running, and doing those basic functional moves because they’re the foundation of everything.”

Ingredient #2: Specificity

Whatever the goal, a training program should be specific in its outcome with a clear progression from beginning to end. “Training for strength is very different from training for power, and the scope of the program should reflect that,” says Kat.

“For a strength-building goal, maybe you’ll do the same rep week after week, but go a little heavier each time. For power, maybe you’ll push harder for a shorter amount of time, or rest less between moves. If it’s HIIT training, your goal may be to last the entire interval and then give a little more.”

Some of the variables you’ll see the obé pros manipulating are exercises types, rep count, rest time, weight load, and frequency of exercises. “You should be able to say: This week I went from eight reps to ten, or last week I went really light, so now I’ll go for heavier weights,” explains Kat.

Ingredient #3: Difficulty

Lastly, to rev up the results, your program should also get harder in some way, week to week. “That can mean a lot of different things depending on the program, but it should always be central to the design,” says Kat. “Progressive overload is key.”

This science-backed method will add stress to the musculoskeletal system in a beneficial way, so that your body can change and meet new challenges as it adapts. As you graduate from one week to the next, the increased difficulty should have you lifting heavier, running faster, crushing more reps, or pushing for longer than you did the week prior (to name a few examples).

Ready to get started? Head to the Programs tab to explore fitness training programs! To get help choosing the perfect program for your goals, read this guide.

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