The main purpose of training is adaptation (1 of 2) – workout vs. training,
The purpose of going to the gym is to cause your body to make an adaptation that improves your physique or performance. Many people encounter trouble with their workout programs when they begin feeling that the purpose of their workouts is to test their will power or to work hard. While some workouts will definitely test your self-discipline and ability to work hard, this is not the purpose of the workout. You should have specific goals related to your physique or performance that will take a while to accomplish. This way you can have short and long term goals so that you can set up a long term training program.
One of the problems with the idea of “working out” is that people see working out as an activity in itself and a self-contained event. Workouts are cumulative, and the results are meant to come from a sustained effort over time. People lose sight of the big picture when they attempt to blow themselves out at every workout. The proliferation of Beast Mode memes and other misguided motivational material does not help. After seeing enough promotional material telling people that they aren’t working hard enough if they are not close to being admitted to a hospital after a workout is misleading. Many of the people promoting a kill yourself in the gym workout mantra are simply trying to misdirect attention from their use of performance enhancing drugs. It’s very easy to convince people that they just need to work a little harder to get the results someone on drugs is getting. Instead of looking at where the evidence to support this work harder ethos is coming from, many people believe their fitness idols that may or may not be using PEDs. The simple truth is that more than hard work is needed to achieve a great physique. This can mean hard work and intelligent programming is required or hard work and drugs. Either way simply pushing harder will not sustain results over time. Therefore setting up a program that builds on your progress is the best way to ensure continued gains.
The best way to start to train for real is to read through a few programs, pick one and stick to it. Regardless of the program you pick, you will learn a great deal about your body and how it responds to exercise by staying on a program. Every program plays with a different set of variables based around the volume, intensity, frequency and density of a program. Some programs include cardio and some focus strictly on weights. By sticking to a protocol you can really begin to tell what specific effects these variables have on your body. Many people talk about how switching programs often or “program hopping” is a bad idea. What they fail to mention is that the inconsistency isn’t really the worst part. Sure switching the sets and reps week to week can be bad. However, many advanced trainers do this as part of their normal workout schedule. Many advanced strength training programs actually have the sets and reps switch back and forth from week to week, and even within the week. The issue for new trainees is that while they may be hitting their whole body with a reasonable volume, they never experience the different effects different type of training have on their body. Very advanced trainees have often been seriously training for years or even decades. Many beginners to serious training have never followed a program seriously for more than 3 months.
One thing I have noticed is that the only serious improvements I have made in my physique have been after I stuck with a program for a long period of time. Usually this meant sticking with a program for 6-15 weeks. Whenever I did this with serious consistency I saw an improvement in my physique that I was able to maintain. Any other time I made improvements with my physique by simply working harder for a period of time I was not able to sustain the improvements. In retrospect this makes sense. I didn’t have a plan to improve, I was simply working harder. Obviously you can’t work harder all the time. At some point you need a plan for maintenance. This is one of the biggest differences between training and working out. Working out relies on short term motivation. Training is a plan to nearly ensure progress if followed. A training program requires willpower and discipline at key points in your day. For example a training program requires discipline in planning meals and getting to the gym. Most good programs and diets should be planned so that they are not miserable. A really good program should be difficult at times and enjoyable at times as well. Anything that is only enjoyable or only miserable is probably not a very balanced program. Balance is one of the key components of a good program. Even the best athletes in the world have found a way to make their programs balanced, enjoyable and a good fit for their overall lifestyle. If you fail to account for your lifestyle most programs will fail. Training programs allow you to plan around your life so that you can measure your progress relative to what you were doing before. This allows you to isolate the changes you made in your program over time so that you can figure out what works. A training program allows you to treat your workouts like an ongoing experiment. In this way you can continually learn from your training. Looking at your workouts over time as a cumulative event instead of an individual event is one of the key shifts you can make in your training.