Have you heard this phrase before, "I'm going to the gym today to workout ".
Going to the gym to workout can mean many things but for many it means running on the treadmill and lifting a few weights. For an athlete, doing this will not get you the results you want.
So, what's the difference between "working out" and "training"? Working out means you probably don't have a plan or a goal, you just slapped together some exercises you found on the internet. Working out means that you probably don't pay attention to your rest days and recovery time between sets.
I've heard numerous times of athletes "working out" 7 days a week. When you are "training" you carefully schedule rest days (both active and passive days), you pay close attention to your nutrition (pre, during, and post), and you are going to the gym with a plan to reach a specific goal.
Training is about improving yourself every day, focusing on specific exercises that will help you improve your performance and reach your goal. Working out is usually about trying to look good in the mirror and not goal-specific.
Finding a good coach can also help you reach your goals and keep you accountable. If you are not doing the things you need to do to reach your goals, a coach can help keep you on path. I remember the biggest impact hiring a coach had with me. Every day I would think what I needed to do but kept getting confused or frustrated thinking I wasn't doing enough. Then I would receive weekly training programs and I followed them religiously. All of a sudden I wasn't questioning what I was doing, I had the confidence in my coach to help me get where I wanted/needed to be. I was no longer just working out without a plan; I was training with a purpose.
It's easy to get caught up in all of the latest and greatest workouts published in magazines. Take Men's Health for example. Every month they come out with a new workout that promises to get you ripped by summer. Sure they are good workouts (put together by some of the best coaches in the country), but are they helping YOU reach YOUR goal. Odds are that they are not. They don't know what your goal is.
One of the hardest things to do is stay consistent with the program. You can't change after a few weeks, or worse, quit. If you are working with a coach it should be simple, just follow the program written for you. Yes it's that simple, just follow the program. If the training is geared towards your goal you WILL reach your goal.
Another important aspect of "training" is to keep a training log. This can be as simple as recording your sets, reps, and weights for each workout. The main goal is to improve on what you did before, that’s called progression. A good progressive training program will increase one of the above every few weeks (if not every week). Being able to see how you performed in your last workout, as far as weight and reps, will allow you to easily set a goal for your next workout. Otherwise, you are just working out without knowing if what you are doing is working or not.
I even have some of my athletes track their daily sleep (quantity and quality), bodyweight, their mood, and their willingness to train each day. Tracking your physical and mental progress will only help you further your career as an athlete.
If you are an athlete reading this, STOP working out and START training. Hire a coach. Before you know it you will become the athlete you want to be.