“Stop exercising!” is abnormal advice to say the least, especially at a time of year when you’re probably interested in shedding the kilos you gained over the holidays. It certainly isn’t advice you would expect to hear on New Year’s Day. Yet, it’s exactly what I’m suggesting.
I’m not really a fan of New Year’s resolutions. In principle, it sounds very commendable when people resolve to change undesirable behaviours to accomplish personal goals and improve their lives. But we all know what happens: by mid-January, those resolutions are all but forgotten.
That’s why I don’t like them — they are destined to fail from the start. In fact, a study from the University of Bristol reports that 88 per cent of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail, despite the fact that over half of the study’s participants were confident of success when they made them. So, the question begs: why would you do something that has the odds stacked against it from the beginning?
I must point out that this isn’t why I’m suggesting you stop exercising. After all, doctors prescribe exercise as the best preventive “drug”. It can help keep your body at a healthy weight and lower the risk of diseases including Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The reason I urge you to stop exercising, is not because I want to stand in the way of these clear health benefits or to turn you into a couch potato.
It’s because the benefits of exercise pale in comparison to the benefits of training. So, to finish the words of advice I asserted in the beginning: stop exercising, start training.
We live in an exercise-crazed society. Many of us are addicted to the instantaneous buzz that we get from a burst of physical activity, and the sense of short-term satisfaction gained from burning those excess calories, pumping up our biceps or stretching out tense muscles.
The way I see it, exercise is physical activity done for its own sake, and it differs greatly from training. For athletes and people with a definite performance objective in mind, training is not just a sure-fire way to an adrenaline kick, it’s a strategic, long-term necessity.
While closely related to exercise, training is physical activity performed for the purpose of satisfying a long-term performance goal. It is about the process instead of the workout itself, and since the process must generate tangible results at a point in the future, the process must be carefully planned to get you there.
To put it another way, the important distinctions between exercising and training are the objective and time horizon. Unlike with exercise, the objective of training is long-term improvement for a specific purpose.
That requires a significant investment in terms of time, and a willingness to resist the temptation to congratulate yourself on incremental gains. Those who train save the celebrations for the moment they achieve their ultimate goal.
You probably don’t see yourself as a competitive athlete. Most people don’t. You may not even have a definable objective other than losing some weight and getting “in shape.”
That leads to the temptation to be perfectly satisfied with exercising. But, no matter what, there is no reason why you should settle for what is commonplace. Whoever you are, now is the time to put in the effort towards attaining your long-term goal.
We live in a society where the “exercise” mentality dominates all areas of life. We’ve been conditioned to focus on immediate, short-term attainment. We go through the paces because that’s the norm — but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Don’t let yourself settle for anything but your best. Get hooked by the possibilities for continued improvement that hard training can deliver.
Instead of exercising, start training. Don’t make a resolution to change who you are today. Set your sights on who you want to be tomorrow, at the end of the year. Train for the future.
Tommy Weir is CEO of the EMLC Leadership Ai Lab and author of ‘Leadership Dubai Style’. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.