The simple answer…yes there is.
When you’re training, you’re getting specific. This means you’re training with a specific exercise, like running, or group of exercises—either under the guidance of a trainer or yourself—with the specific aim of getting better at it. The goal of the training can be improving technique, speed, endurance, or increasing the amount weight when lifting– but training is all about having a predetermined goal, and a predetermined way to get there.
By contrast, when you’re working out, the goal is typically to increase your heart rate, get a good sweat and find out what specific areas you could improve through focused training. In a workout, the focus is not about improving technique; it’s about maintaining technique despite all the grind and fatigue.
Basically, being physically fit means that your body does what you want it to at a reasonable level at work and at play. But how we aim to achieve this physically fit state is where the split between training and exercising begins.
The largest distinction between the two approaches to physical fitness is in the immediacy of gratification. People who exercise are performing a workout for the purpose of immediate feedback, to break a sweat, increase heart rate etc. Those who train are using each session as a stepping-stone towards a larger goal. Take for instance the runners at my studio. Their training is very specific to the type of goal that they have set for themselves. In their case, it’s to run a 15km race.
For exercisers, each workout is a reward unto itself, where as for those who train, each workout is a means to a larger goal or reward. This idea can be equated to someone who plays tennis as a hobby versus someone that trains 6 hours a day because they want to compete as a professional tennis player.
Training involves measurable specific goals achieved through planned incremental progress. These goals can be performance or health based as long as they are measurable. Measurable goals could be increasing your weights on a weekly basis or reducing body fat percentage by 3% or doing 10 chin-ups. Exercising on the other hand involves more vague aspirations such as “I want to get in shape,” or, “I want to look better in my clothes”.
Nonetheless, it’s important for us to understand what are goals are and how we can best achieve them. And I think one of the first steps in doing do is determining what our intentions are as they relate to physical health and fitness.