I have a secret, something that only a few people know.
I sometimes workout at another gym besides the one I own.
I know, it's crazy.
I've been involved in a specific type of athletic training and strength and conditioning for so long that I've forgotten there is another world of exercise out there. One I actually came from when I started this journey years ago.
This world is populated by a group of people who aimlessly wail on machines and free weights, pulling movements they've learned from magazines and websites, in an effort to look something like the videos they see online and in print. They work for the sake of work, and while admirable, it is a gerbil wheel. Doomed to forever spin and get nowhere.
That, in essence, is the difference between training and exercise. Exercise gives you something to do. It makes you hot and sweaty, and it can be fun. Truthfully, there are a lot of people who have gotten in good shape by exercising. Training, however, has one key difference: direction.
The first day I train with a new client I ask "what is your goal?" Most of the time I get responses along the lines of getting fitter or losing weight. Occasionally I get a more specific answer; "I want to do a pull-up" or "I want to run a 5k in under 30 minutes". It's those quantifiable goals which distinguishes training from just "working out".
Attached to this distinction are the trainers and coaches of the world. You see them leading groups of men and women. Engaging their clients and classes to do movements they wouldn't normally do, leading them outside their comfort zones, and helping them discover something within themselves. This is a very important interaction.
When you exercise you just need someone with a clipboard and pre-written routine to walk you around the gym and make small talk.
When you train, you need someone to objectively evaluate your performance, offer improvements in technique, and provide "tough love" when you need it most. You need someone who can speak to you from experience, someone who provides insight not only into the bio-mechanical aspects of training, but also the mental and emotional states of motivation and training. You need someone you feel comfortable around, trust, and is invested in your success.
That, brings us to the second key difference, between a coach and a trainer.
A coach will see in you the best person you can be, and will work together with you to achieve that goal. You will see in you something you've never seen in yourself.
A coach will be supportive, and realistic. Whatever your goal, is their goal. At the same time if it is unrealistic or unsafe they will call you on it or work to make an appropriate adjustment.
A coach will know their passion and their limitations. If a goal is outside their limitations, they should have no problem bowing out and directing you to someone more appropriate.
Lastly, a coach should empower, and bring up the people around them to the highest of levels. Bettering the world with every movement, and word of encouragement.
The subtle differences between trainers and coaches, exercising and training are elusively obvious, and run through the under current of the entirety of the exercise world. Learn the distinctions now, to provide a better path in the future.
Evan Chelini is the owner of Sand Dunes CrossFit and Strength Coach in Miramar Beach, FL. He is also the owner of a great spirit and passion for helping others.
Please visit his page at Sand Dunes Strength and Conditioning
As always, please "share" so others can BeneFIT!
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Dr. Mark Giovanini
Scott Rusin is the Director of Physical Therapy at the Sandestin Executive Health & Wellness Center in Sandestin Resort, Miramar Beach, FL. He has a degree in Physical Therapy, is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Nike Golf NG360 Performance Specialist Powered by the Gray Institute.