Stop Working Out And Start Training: 4 Steps To Better Results

Elliot Reimers
Written By: Elliot Reimers
May 7th, 2014
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
17.2K Reads
If you're trying to build muscle, it doesn't matter how much you sweat in the gym. Learn why chasing after anything other than progression is a waste of time.

There are many days when I walk in the gym and I see the same people, doing the same exercises, with the same weights and they look the same as when they did months (or even years) before. It makes me wonder, “How can these people spend so much time in the gym and not be making any strength gains or physique changes?”

Well, the sad truth is that these individuals are merely exercising without any goals or progressions in mind. Their workout is just purposeless meandering. They are simply going through the motions to have some sense of undeserved accomplishment.

It’s actually quite easy to spot individuals who are actually training because they are consistently progressing in some fashion. They have a goal (or goals) they set out to achieve from the day they set foot in a gym and they have every intention of making their dreams a reality.

If you find yourself plagued by the syndrome of “exercise complacency” when it comes to your physique and performance goals, read on as we take a look at how to correct the issue and turn you into someone who trains.

Exercising is easy; training is not

In a recent discussion I had with Steve Shaw, an accomplished powerlifter and editor in chief of M&S, he jokingly quipped that his exercise over the weekend was painting his house. Despite the intended sarcasm, we both acknowledged that there is a hidden truth in such a statement.

You see, many people think that simply putting the body into motion for a brief period of time, no matter how easy/effortless it is, is all that it takes to reach their health and physique goals.

Ironically it’s usually these same individuals who are complaining about why they’re getting fatter, always feeling tired, depressed, having food cravings, etc. Well maybe it’s because walking up the stairs to get to your office because the elevator broke is called “being human”, not training.

Walking from the subway station to your apartment one block away is called “being human”, not “I just did my cardio for the day”. I mean are you kidding me? Oh you vacuumed the living room today? Great, no need to hit the gym then, I know how excruciating and exhausting it is to push a vacuum around and suck up some scraps for 5 minutes.

I guess in this instance you can technically say that those everyday, mundane acts are “exercise”, but that’s just my point. Walking up a few flights of stairs is easy; walking around the block is easy; vacuuming is easy. Those are functions of daily life for normal humans, if those simple acts have turned into your “cardio” or workout for the day than I fear for the health and work ethic of our nation. Its no wonder so many people are obese in the United States now.

Barbell squats

What is “training” really?

Training is different than exercise; training has a purpose. Training requires diligent and persistent effort. If you’re not pushing yourself, there’s no need for your body to improve; it has no stress to adapt to so it has no need to change.

Training requires you to progress and think about what you’re doing in the gym. Mindlessly lifting the same weights for months on end is not training, that’s stagnation.

Training is coming into the gym with a goal and being willing to put yourself through the struggle to reach that endpoint. Training is running further, faster; training is pedaling harder and longer; training is adding weight to the bar, reps to your sets, and sets to your workouts; training is breaking personal records; training is being better than you were yesterday.

If that sounds easy, you’re not doing it right, because training is one of the hardest things you can do.

4 steps to start training

Step #1 - Admit there is a problem. If you find yourself reading this and thinking, “Man, this guy is right, I am a lazy bastard and haven’t really been training in the gym,” then fear no more. The first step is admitting you have a problem (hopefully you catch my sarcasm here), so congratulations for passing that phase.

Step #2 - Determine your goal. The second step is to ask yourself what your goal is? What are you passionate about? Why do you go to the gym? What do you want out of the hours you put in? It could be something as straightforward as lowering body-fat percentage to single digits or squatting 400lbs or getting down to a smaller dress size. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re passionate about it. This is about you and you alone, so do it for you.

Furthermore, it’s okay to “dream big” but you have to realize that the greater the goal, the harder and longer you will have to train to get there. This is why ultimately you need to set “mini goals” that serve as stepping-stones to that endpoint. This all ties back into the idea of training to begin with.

Training inherently forces you to reach goals. It has a purpose to it. It makes you change and adapt to physical stressors. If you’re doing the same thing week after week, month after month, and year after year you’re simply not progressing; you’ve become a complacent exerciser that embraces monotony and stagnation.

Step #3 - Make a plan. The third step of all this is to have a plan to reach your goal(s). Don’t over think this; you don’t have to have the “optimal” plan when you first start, the main thing is just having some form of regimen outlined that shows how you will progress to reach your goal(s).

Step #4 - Act on the plan. The fourth and final step (also the most important step) is to act on your plan. This sounds simple but this is where the men are separated from the boys—where you either train or exercise with no purpose. Action leads to results; action leads to experience, and experience leads to wisdom—wisdom to come back and do it better the next time.

So if you’re tired of mindless meandering in the gym, tired of looking the same, tired of being out of shape, tired of not being stronger, then follow these aforementioned steps and start training. It won’t be easy, but anything worth having in this world is worth working for.

Training applies to more than just the gym

Why do you think jobs have you train when you first start? Because they want you to improve and perform better, they don’t want to hire a bunch of clowns who show up and repeatedly put in half-assed effort and do their job poorly.

When you go to school, you are training (your brain). When you practice the piano (or any instrument) you are training. Training is not constrained solely to what you do in the gym. Training applies to life.

If you made it this far through the article I hope you find yourself inspired and determined to train, whether you’ve been training or not. And I don’t necessarily just mean training in the gym; I mean every part of your life you find yourself passionate about. If you really want something, you will train enough to make it happen, it’s as simple as that. Train or remain the same.