A Purpose for Every Workout
This article is not about semantics; it is about how to improve athletic performance through effective race preparation. But I want to start by considering the difference between a workout and training.
Defined as “a session of vigorous physical exercise,” a workout is an important element of training. Yet training—defined as “a course of exercise…in preparation for a sporting event”—involves more than simply working out. Training involves an end goal that goes beyond a single session. It is a goal driven process that moves an athlete forward as she prepares for a future athletic event.
In other words, one can perform a workout without necessarily training for an event. One can go out and exercise vigorously, work up a sweat, and enjoy the endorphin release. As a result, one may be happier, healthier, and fitter for having done the workout. But the workout may or may not contribute toward a performance goal in a future athletic contest.
And this brings us to the heart of the matter. If you are an endurance athlete training for an event, it is important to consider how each workout contributes to the goal driven process of preparing for your event. If you don’t know why you’re doing a particular workout or what training effect you’re targeting, you may or may not hit the target. As a result, you may or may not be very effective at preparing for that event.
This is where a systematic approach to training can help you train more effectively. By acting according to a fixed plan or system, a systematic approach allows you to prepare for your event with greater precision. A systematic approach need not be a complicated approach (although it can be). It simply needs to involve a plan that starts with the end goal in mind, and individual workouts (training sessions) that contribute to that overarching plan.
The bottom line is that knowing the why and the reason for each session marks the distinction between training and simply working out. And training with a purpose is the key to successful race preparation.