Posted by on Jul 28, 2014

Miguel Aragoncillo is a strength coach working at Endeavor Sports Performance with youth hockey and youth baseball teams. He is also a personal trainer in the Greater Philadelphia area, working with a wide variety of fat loss and mass gain clients. He enjoys philosophical discussions, lifting heavy things and breakdancing on the reg (feel free to challenge him to dance battle). Visit his blog at, or his Fitocracy. Want to train with Miguel? Check out his new Fitocracy Team.

Within the realm of the fitness, there is a bit of a discrepancy between “working out” and “training.” Let’s clarify terms, at least for the purposes of this article.


Essentially, it comes down to understanding that with “working out,” is a temporary and fleeting moment. While not necessarily feeding into a negative connotation, the term working out is generally used when you are exercising without a specific goal or real focus for that block of time, whether it is an hour, 20 minutes, or 3 hours. Sometimes you can workout with your family members, friends, or group of people – and that can obviously be a great thing, as the act of exercising can and will bring about a spirit of camaraderie that can’t be so easily defined.


At the opposite end, “training” or “lifting” are another terms that can defined as exercising towards a specific goal – increased athletic performance, improved efficiency of aerobic and anaerobic capacities or outputs, or increased muscular hypertrophy, to name a few specific goals.


This isn’t to say that training or lifting can’t promote camaraderie either, but rather that it involves a specific mentality or mindset that both includes certain individuals or excludes certain individuals. On top of this, there is a set timeline that is involved – for some it is a 12 week span of training. For others, it is a 16 weeks of time. And for others, it is a lifelong commitment. Some view this as a lifestyle, others view it as being overly attentive to what may be termed as an exercise related version of orthorexia nervosa – or addicted to eating healthily.


When Achieving Your Goals Can Bite You in The Ass

The very idea of getting ready to go to the gym, sweating, and smelling, and moving weights around the gym floor is sometimes unappealing to people. For others, focusing specifically on a 16 week plan where every set and rep is planned to the tempo and rest periods is unappealing, for whatever reason.


For me specifically, there was a period of time where I had written out a timeline of exercise programming and I had not missed or left any singular repetition out – for two and a half years I lifted for 4 days every week, and I didn’t miss one day of lifting – until once where I had become sick and I decided to take a day off.


The next day I was back in the gym.


However, from a social aspect, I definitely missed out on many occasions, social events, traveling occasions, and other things that I might have otherwise had more “fun” doing – marathons, half-marathons, 5k Runs, or mud runs and the like, mainly because I had been training in powerlifting for that specific block of time.




That picture where I am surrounded by family and friends? This was after my brother and two cousins trained, ran together, and ultimately finished their first half-marathon. This was a fun time for them, and it was a fun time for me too as I helped to guide them with strength training to make sure they didn’t have any overuse injuries by performing a singular motion (running) for a long bout of time.


Why didn’t I run the half marathon with them?


I was specifically training for a powerlifting meet during that time. On top of this, I didn’t perform any activities that would detract from me improving in my chosen sport at the time – no running, no dancing, no movements that were to otherwise prove unhelpful towards improving my lifts in the big 3.


This didn’t mean I couldn’t be surrounded by them and had to alienate myself in order to focus on my goals however.

First Powerlifting Meet in 2011 where you can hear my family supporting me!

While I tend to view things in a very black and white manner – you either do it or you don’t – this is the grey area of achieving this type of success. But it doesn’t have to be synonymous with cutting ties with people.


So what about you? Are you training for something, or are you more interested in working out? Regardless, here are some action plans that maybe you can partake in if you find yourself in one camp versus the other:

If You Enjoy “Working Out”

  • Plan on making a goal, and analyze why you truly want that goal.
    • Whether it is fat loss, increasing your 5k run time, or increasing your bench press that hasn’t gone up in 5 years, choose a specific goal.
  • After you decide on that goal, decide on a timeline to achieve that goal.
  • Choose the smallest, actionable item you can take towards that goal.
    • Many times, smaller steps will lead to greater goals, and a snowball effect occurs in which you can increase your momentum towards achieving this “greater goal”.
  • After that block of time, measure or test your goal.
    • Did your waistline decrease? Did your 5k time increase? Did your bench press increase by 5lbs? If not, analyze why your plan of action did not lend itself to improving your physical (and mental) goals.
  • Join my Fitocracy Team to get a specific exercise program where you can achieve your goals faster.
  • Either that, or find some crazy people who want to do the same thing. Powerlifting was a good outlet for me. So was breakdancing.

If You Enjoy “Training”

  • Plan a singular block of time in your week (does not have to entail one whole day – it can be 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or one hour) where you essentially throw things on a wall, and see what sticks.
  • Play! Call up a friend, go to the basketball courts, or play a pick-up game of anything.
  • Since your comfort zone involves strict regimented plans of action, getting outside of your comfort zone will involve living in a little bit of chaos or unrestricted play.


Adjacent to my facility in Conshohocken, PA is a significantly large turf field. Earlier in the year (January through March), the space would be rented out at night to a group of individuals who loved throwing a frisbee around – in fact they had a league involved, and let’s just say it looked like a lot of fun.


That catch can’t be legal.

After a full day of coaching, I wish I had asked them if I could throw the frisbee around for a bit just to play!


Stories aside, that is what is needed sometimes if you enjoy the “specific” blocks of training for long durations of time – perhaps this is why I enjoy dancing about 2 to 3 times a week. It allows a block of time where I can just “create” movement and not worry about anything in particular!

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