The obesity epidemic is receiving a lot of airtime. You hear the wisdom every day from the weight-loss and health gurus who, in an effort to change the tides, call to “Get off the couch, set the chips and soda down, and start exercising!”
Yet, Americans continue to pack on the pounds, and I believe I may have uncovered the cause. So I have a slightly different message to offer: Stop exercising!
Yes, you read that right. I’m absolutely convinced that exercise is failing us—or more accurately, exercise has failed to produce the anticipated positive effect on an ever-increasing number of overweight Americans.
We’ve got more people exercising than ever—running, doing yoga, belonging to gyms, attending aerobics classes, buying in-home exercise equipment, and engaging in new forms of cardio exercise. And yet, collectively, we’re getting more and more unhealthy.
Go into one of the modern metropolises of a fitness center and take a look around. My guess is that what you’ll see is a pretty standard scene—loads of cardio machines and lots of people moving, reading, talking, socializing, watching TVs or watching others. In another area, some barbells, dumbbells and intimidating weight machines, a few people staring blankly, some talking, and others engaging in moderate circuit programs on the machines.
These people are simply going through the motions, dutifully performing exercises with the type of enthusiasm they bring to household chores. This dull, uninspired shuffle called “exercise,” this failure to train with a sufficient level of focus and intensity, is the greatest obstacle to developing the results most profess to be seeking.
Though often used interchangeably by others, exercising and training are distinctly different. Exercise is movement without purpose; motion without direction. It’s what my grandmother does when she walks around the block.
Now, I am for anything that elevates the heart rate and gets a body moving, and for some this is all they might be capable of. Exercise is a grueling activity that requires great discipline, an obligation: “I should be doing this.” In contrast, training is powered by an inspired vision: “I feel strong, fit and alive!”
I’m sure you’ve seen people training in those same gyms, too. You’ll recognize them as the few who truly look like they mean some business. Head down, focused, intense, driven with purpose. They’re not unfriendly people, just “in the zone.”
For a clear example of the difference between exercise and training, consider the fact that athletes don’t go to “exercise camp”; they go to training camp. Why? Because they are “in training” and focused on achieving specific results, which fuels an intense drive and motivation.
Training is a mindset, the way you approach any exercise you do, be that a set of bench presses or a session on a treadmill. Understanding this distinction will be as transformative to your results as the training itself.
If you could have only one reason to make strength training part of your fitness life, you might try this fact: It is the only way to reshape your body. Attempting to transform a body with cardio alone is futile. As my brother Bill is fond of saying, “If you’re shaped like a pear and do nothing but cardio training, you might lose some weight—but you’ll just end up looking like a smaller pear.”
If you are serious about transforming your body and life, if you have any desire to make measurable change, if you want your time in the gym to be efficient and effective, stop wasting your time exercising and start training!