Why Random Workouts Won't Produce the Results You Want

STACK Expert Rob DeCillis contrasts "working out" with "training" and advises athletes to develop a plan and "train."

Runners on Treadmills

"I'm going to the gym to work out." If these words are coming out of your mouth, then you are wasting your time. That's right—you should stop working out. In fact, if you continue to do so, I guarantee you will never achieve what you want.

Instead of heading to the gym to work out, you should go to the gym to train.

What's the difference?

"Working out" means you went to the gym and broke a sweat. "Training" means you went to the gym and made a difference.

If you just slapped together a session from the latest exercises you saw on the Internet, you are working out. No rhyme or reason. No proper recovery time after each set to reduce the likelihood of injury.

When you train, you have a goal and a purpose every time you step into the gym. You know exactly what you are working toward and can put forth the effort. Sorry, but if you're looking to improve your performance as an athlete, getting ripped up for beach season is not a valid purpose.

Training is about improving yourself every day, not getting better for the short term, then going back to your "old self." You start by establishing a solid base; then each training session builds upon the last one until you achieve what you set out to achieve. Then you set a new goal—whether it's to maintain what you have or to push the limits and improve on something you've already conquered.

People who train take ownership of their training. Instead of cobbling together a random routine, they follow a plan. They arrive on time and focus on specific exercises that will help them reach their goals.

Set the right goal

Declare a purpose for your training by setting the right goal. It should be specific to what you want to accomplish, not what you see others do. This could be the hardest step to take. Most people do not know what they want. Here are a few tips for setting goals:

  • Know that you can attain the goal. Often when setting a goal, we get too ambitious and set one way out of our reach—e.g., adding 100 pounds to our Deadlift in three weeks. That's probably impossible, but adding 50 pounds to our Deadlift in three months is challenging but attainable.
  • Set a deadline. A goal with no end date is just floating out there, and you will likely never attain it.
  • Match your training to your goal. If your goal is to enter a powerlifting meet and your training consists of running long distances three times a week, you will have a disconnect.

Find the right coach

Everyone needs a coach. Even the coach needs a coach. A coach can help you attain your goals in a timely fashion and keep you accountable for your training. If you're not doing the things you need to reach your goals, the coach will put you back on track. A good coach knows each player's needs and motivations.

Follow the program

With so much training information out there promising one thing or another, most people usually start a program and either change it a couple of sessions in, or quit before it is done. A coach will create a training program to help you reach your goal. Your job is to follow the program. It's that simple—follow the program. If the training program is geared toward your goal, and you follow through with the program, you will attain your goal.

Make sure the program matches your goal

If you want to add hypertrophy, your training should look similar to that of a bodybuilder. If you want to get strong in the three big lifts—Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press—the program you follow should mimic that of a powerlifter. Follow a training program tailored to your goal—and most of all, stick to it.

Keep a log

How will you know if something works or not if you don't track your progress? At the beginning, you can just take notes on your training sessions—amount of weight lifted, number of reps performed, etc. As you progress, it's essential that the log become more than numbers recorded. You need to write your thoughts about how you feel during sessions, how well you focus, if you are stressed by outside factors and other ideas floating around in your head while you train. Training goes well beyond the physical. Tracking progress both mentally and physically will be a great asset to you as you further your athletic career.

After a few months of training, go back and read through what you wrote. Reflection will help you progress toward your goals faster. If you don't track your training, you are merely working out without any way of knowing if what you are doing is working.

Be consistent

Consistent action always nets results. If you don't consistently follow your training program, most times you won't get the desired results. Stick to what you started and finish it. An easy way to hold yourself accountable is to set your training time well in advance. For example, you know that every Friday at 6 p.m. you are training. When someone asks you out to dinner, you know you have a prior commitment. In the end, consistency is your ticket to achieving your goal.

Enjoy the journey

As you enter the new world of training and pursue specific goals, you need to pull back and enjoy the process. The journey is where the fun comes from. The ups and the downs, the peaks and valleys of each training week and month will give you a new sense of yourself. Training will help you grow and become better than the day before, both physically and mentally. If you quit working out and start training, you will find a new you—the one you have always been looking for.

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Topics: COACH | TRAIN | TRACK