The Distinction Between Movement and Exercise: Part 3

In this series on “The Distinction Between Exercise and Movement” we have been discussing Ken Hutchins outline of the “Five Distinctions Between Exercise and Recreation.” 

Exercise                          Recreation

Logical                             Instinctive
Universal                          Personal
General                            Specific
Physical                            Mental
Not Fun                             Fun

This week we will take a look at Physical versus Personal and Not Fun versus Fun.


Training and exercise can have both physical and mental benefits. However, I think it is important to make the distinction again of why you are training and what outcomes you wish to derive from your training.

Our definition of exercise is that it is mindful movement or activity whose primary purpose is to provide a stimulus to set in motion a positive physical adaption within the body as effectively , efficiently, and safely as possible. The exercise we utilize at Fletcher Fitness focuses primarily on stimulating positive adaptations in the following:

Increased Lean Body Mass
Increased Bone Density
Metabolic Condtitioning

For this discussion, we will discuss one important stimulus that can lead to increases in both muscle mass and strength. That stimulus is what we refer to as “thorough inroad” or momentary muscular failure. We will often refer to this stimulus as a critical piece of our resistance exercise program. Although the main purpose for training to the point of momentarily muscular failure is to stimulate muscle growth, increased strength, and all the downstream fitness and health benefits, it is very much a mental exercise as well. 

 On the other hand, movement can also be used as a “well being” tool. There has been much written about this and the effects of exercise on mental health. We are meant to move and I encourage you to move everyday. I also encourage you to move in ways that you enjoy and consider “fun.” Most of the research surrounding movement for well being is focused on the quantity rather than the quality of movement. Although we can utilize exercise as a tool for ”well being,” I am trying to convey that all movement is not equal. If you are not putting the intensity of effort nor mental focus on form into your training, you are not likely to optimize the physical benefits.

If you are training mainly to relieve stress or are focused on deriving the benefits of mental well being from exercise it is not necessary to train to momentary muscle failure. If this is your goal, it is perfectly ok.  However, it is important to decide what your goal is, make a “decision” based on what your intention is, and not confuse the two. 

You may also wish to utilize physical training to develop mental toughness. I have trained with this goal in mind myself and have coached others who wish to challenge and test themselves in this area.

The tag line of SealFit is “Forging Mental Toughness.”  If you are training for a crucible style event like a marathon, Kokoro, etc. you may gain incredible insight mentally and spiritually. I learned much about myself and many valuable lessons from these crucible adventures. However, I would like to advise you that you are also increasing your risk of physical injury.

Again, I do not intend to discourage you from engaging in this type of training, but I am encouraging you to make the distinction between this training and training to create a positive physical adaption. I would not encourage someone to prepare and go through the rigors of Kokoro solely for their health and physical fitness. There are safer and more efficient ways to achieve this goal. 

There is a way to train and challenge yourself both physically and mentally and to do so in a safe, effective and efficient manner. Our primary method of training for strength is high effort, low impact, mindful, optimized, quantified, strength training. We have found this method to be very effective for building strength, muscle, and metabolic conditioning while being incredibly safe.

To fully optimize this training by taking yourself to true muscular failure while maintaining focus on technique can be incredibly rewarding but challenging. In the book, “Deep Fitness,” the authors coin the term “Mindful Strength Training to Failure” to describe this method of training. If you choose to accept this challenge and pursue it as a path of mastery, the benefits will go well beyond the physical.

“Not Fun” Fun

This is an interesting distinction. I have had fun, no pun intended, joking with some clients about this one. I have sometimes jokingly asked, “Do you want to train, or do you want to be entertained?” Productive training is hard, and if you derive pleasure and a sense of accomplishment from that hard training, then it is fun. I believe exercise and training can be fun. However, it does not have to be a requirement. Sometimes the things that will benefit us most by taking us out of our comfort zone are not going to be fun.

In an age of constant distraction, I believe it is valuable to be aware of your ability to focus on hard tasks and to consider if you are truly interested in training to become your best self or rather seeking to be entertained.