Why You Should be Doing ‘Training’, Not ‘Workouts’.

Do you ‘work out’? Do you ‘exercise’? Or do you train?

At Range of Motion, we train, and there’s an important distinction.

You may ask,’What’s the difference?’ or ‘does it really matter what we call it’?

Let’s answer both these questions.

‘Working out’ or ‘exercising’ is the act of engaging in physical activity that is not specifically designed or geared towards improving performance. ‘Training’ on the other hand is a specifically and individually designed prescription of exercise methodologies with an intent to increase performance.

But what if your aim is not to increase performance, but just to stay healthy? I’d argue these two things are one and the same, and to understand why, we have to define performance, and what it is we’re trying to perform at.

Performance isn’t the same as competing. It doesn’t mean you’re training to win a medal, beat your opposition, or even achieve a personal best. Performance may be physical – walking up stairs without getting out of breath, kicking the footy with your kids, or dancing with your grand daughter on her wedding day. Performance may be psychological, dealing with adversity in your life or managing stress, anxiety or depression. Performance may be intellectual, staying productive and focussed at work, or fighting the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia to stay sharp well into old age.

Training improves your performance in all these situations and countless more.

Let’s revisit our definition of ‘Training’; a specifically and individually designed prescription of exercise methodologies with an intent to increase performance. Training increases our performance of life’s events.

It trains your ability to deal with life’s events. Not events like the Olympic Games, but events like walking up stairs, managing mood, or staying mentally sharp. The events that really matter.

Now of course, this doesn’t exclude winning an Olympic gold medal, beating your friend in a race, doing your first pull-up, or achieving a personal best in a deadlift. Training can move you towards these things too, and personal achievement and goal accomplishment can be as important to your overall wellbeing as sharing that dance with your grand daughter.

Training moves you towards something. It moves you towards happiness, health, fitness, performance (however we choose to define performance, and whatever ‘event’ it entails).

‘But if I’m always training, there’s no fun’? I disagree. remember, the performance you’re looking to improve isn’t just how strong you are, it includes how HAPPY you are (in fact, I’d argue that your happiness supersedes all else). A good training program should be designed to move you towards happiness just as much as it should move you towards strength and fitness. Training should be fun, rewarding and enjoyable – if not, don’t switch to ‘working out’, switch to a better training program.

So why won’t ‘working out’ lead you towards these things too? It’s because ‘working out’ is exercising that isn’t designed to increase your performance (in all its iterations). Of course, some elements of a ‘workout’ will improve your performance, but not nearly as efficiently as a program of exercise training which is specifically designed to move you towards improved performance in your event or events (of all kinds).

‘Working out’ is a blanket, ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to exercise. Sure, it’s infinitely better than nothing, but it can’t positively impact your life like training can. ‘Working out’ looks like a workout written on a whiteboard that everyone does, regardless of their unique needs. It looks like cherry-picking workouts off the internet, regardless of whether they will move you in the direction of increasing performance in the events you life demands.

‘Training’ looks like individual prescription.

Picture a wagon wheel. The wagon wheel has spokes, with each spoke representing a different ‘event’ that you have to perform at. Maybe there’s a spoke for the ‘prevent heart disease’ event, a spoke for the ‘pull your child out of the way of a speeding car’ event, a spoke for the ‘walk your dog on your 90th birthday’ event. We have an almost infinite number of spokes, for an almost infinite number of events. And just like the wagon wheel, if there’s a broken spoke, the wheel stops turning. There’s no point having a strong ‘walk your dog on your 90th birthday’ spoke if your mother didn’t have a well trained ‘pull your child out of the way of a speeding car’ spoke 85 years earlier.

Your happiness, health, fitness and performance is limited by the weakest spoke on your wagon wheel. The broken spokes will cause you to underperform in the events in your life. At best, broken spokes will reduce your physical and mental quality of life. At worst, they will shorten both your healthspan (how long you live, healthy) and you lifespan (how long you live).

We strengthen our spoke through training. By identifying each individual’s weak spokes, and biasing the training they’re doing to strengthen these spokes. If all wagon wheels looked the same, doing a ‘workout’ would suffice, because we could give the same ‘medicine’ to every person. But everyone’s wagon wheel looks different, so everyone’s exercise should include ‘training’, not ‘workouts’.

Again, its’ worth repeating that even doing ‘workouts’ can be life changing. But if you’re going to be investing your time and resources into exercise, wouldn’t you want to optimise your return?

But does it really matter what we call it? Is it just semantics?

I think ‘yes’.

The terminology we use goes a long way towards the result. By calling what we do ‘training’, it means we understand the power of what we’re doing to improve our performance. The power of what we do to improve our ability to complete the life events in our future.

By doing a ‘training session’ instead of a ‘workout’, we’re making sure our words support our intent to improve our performance in life’s events.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.