Many people enjoy running as their primary form of exercise before ever thinking about running an event or race. Other people only begin running consistently in the build up to an event, whilst some run regularly throughout the year due to multiple races. Whichever group you belong to, there must be a distinction between running training and running as exercise.
Exercise describes the process of moving about for the sole purpose of using energy (i.e. ‘burning calories’) and in order to maintain qualities such as mobility and flexibility. There is of course nothing wrong with running just for exercise, that’s a good a reason as any. There are however more efficient/less time expensive methods if reducing body fat or burning calories are your only aims.
Training on the other hand suggests a greater purpose, more meaningful. It isn’t really any more important – maybe to you personally – but you aren’t changing the world. However, you are changing yourself, your abilities, and your performance. That’s the key difference. Training means consistently trying to improve. If you only exercise then you record nothing, measure nothing and improve…nothing (ok maybe your exercise feels a bit easier, so are you fitter? Can you run further? Faster? Without measuring, how will you know?).
A big problem we see in the injury and rehabilitation setting are runners who used to only exercise, sign up for an event and think only exercising will allow them to get there and perform well. If your aim is to run further or faster than you ever have, then you must also have a plan. Say you're starting at point ‘A’ and you want to get to the finish line ‘D’ un-injured. It'll be very difficult to get there without passing points ‘B’ and ‘C’ in the process.
If you are thinking of booking in an event or you have one coming up, we'd always suggest that you train rather than exercise. Ensure you have a plan, measure your progress along the way and above all else, enjoy the process.
By Alex Adams