The Difference Between Exercising and Training

There’s a difference between knowing what you should do and doing what you should do. And I am the poster child for that difference.

It’s like my mind and my body are an old married couple, perpetually arguing about what was actually said:

“She said it’s a RECOVERY day!”

“WHAT did she SAY?”





It’s that wire that runs from “smart” to “dumb.” Such a faulty, fickle little wire.

This wire, of course, is what led to my demise in the spring of 2014, when I PR’d my 5K and half marathon and thought (so naïve!) I had finally launched myself from the plateau on which I had been racing for the past several years. After a surprise PR in the Frostbite Series half marathon, I was hoodwinked into several collegiate track meets. The first two were spectacular failures. The last resulted in a twenty-one-second PR.

Delighted with my new laurels, I started running with cavalier abandon, assuming I could just whip out a new PR at will. I ran often, I ran long, and I ran at a moderately-comfortable pace. I ran however I felt like running that day. Not slow. Not fast.

The Difference Between Exercising and TrainingAnd soon, that’s the only way I could run.

Not slow. Not fast.

I was running just enough to wear myself out without reaping any benefits other than a good calorie burn. I wasn’t pushing myself. I wasn’t recovering. I wasn’t improving. Because I wasn’t training.

I was exercising.

“But you run all the time!” people say. “Surely, you’re getting faster!”

Nope. Nope, I’m not.

To be faster, to run farther, to be stronger on hills or more efficient in your stride, you’ve got to challenge yourself to some degree. You’ve got to mix it up. I wasn’t. So when I finally did try to find the proverbial “next gear” for races and workouts, I couldn’t. It wasn’t there.


Don’t say it.


I’m serious.

“…run all the time.”


I was in the dreaded black hole of running.

Sure, it feels good to go out and run eight or ten miles at cruise pace, but if I want to improve—and I do—I have to stop dilly-dallying with medium-effort junk miles and start running with purpose. I need to be disciplined not only to run, but within the run itself. 


Because the only difference between training and exercising is a goal.

No matter what training looks like to you-- running, walking, stair-climbing, rowing, yoga-ing, lifting, elliptical-ing, cycling, spinning, swimming-- if you are working towards an end goal, no matter what that goal may be, you are training. 

It was my fellow RunnaBabez teammates Lisa and Jackie who inadvertently inspired me out of my running rut. They take their workouts seriously, their recovery seriously, and their end goals seriously. Weekly mileage, number of workouts, and type of workouts are all—astoundingly!—contingent on their goals.

I am proud to report that over the last two days, I recovered with all the seriousness I could muster. I ran four miles and five miles, respectively, at a pace that was slower than I would have preferred. I stretched, I slept, and I ate well. And, as we speak, I am getting ready to run hill repeats (hard).

Because it's time to start training.

“WHAT did she say?”

“She said it's time to start TRAINING!”




Amy L. Marxkors

Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story.  Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.

Connect With Us

see the latest from Fleet Feet St. Louis