Do you play sports for fun or do you play because you think it is a great way to get in shape? Well hopefully you play out of shear enjoyment, because if you think playing a sport will get you into great shape, be prepared to be mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I love sports and I would encourage anybody and everybody to take up a sport, but a sport is a game, and playing a game will not get you into shape. Why not?…
Well, believe it or not, there is a huge difference between exercise and a sport. Exercise is not a sport and sports are not necessarily exercise. Of course there are some similarities between the two, if however, you are serious about either; getting in really great shape, or, becoming amazing at your sport of choice, you need to understand the differences between the two.
Here is a very simplistic definition of both exercise and sport
Exercise – Non-skill based. In its simplest form, it is: moving your body and picking up “heavy stuff” (and putting it down), in a systematic way, with the goal of increasing your heart rate, building muscle, and improving your movement patterns.
Sport – Skill based. In its simplest form, it is: moving your body with the goal of winning the “game”.
There are two major differences differences between the two:
- The amount of skill needed
- The overall objective
When it comes to skill, sports are much more involved compared to exercise. To be good at a sport you do not necessary have to be in great physical shape. Notice I said good, not great, if you want to be GREAT than you need to combine both worlds. But to be a decent “weekend warrior” at your sport all you need to have is a good skill base and knowledge of the “game” (experience). I have witness this over the last 12-years playing in a fairly competitive men’s soccer league. Over those years I saw every type of player you could imagine:
- The total package player – Great skill, tons of experience, and in great physical shape. When it comes to weekend warriors, these guys are complete game changers.
- The physical specimen – Great physical shape but brand new to the game, this person has little to zero knowledge of the game and despite being in great shape, struggles to make much an impact in the game.
But the most interesting player…
- The Lazy Gamer – This player has great knowledge, great skill and horrible physical conditioning, but here is where it gets interesting, these players make huge impacts on the game, not as much as the total package players but darn close.
Sadly, when it comes to sports, the Lazy Gamers are usually much more valuable than the inexperienced physical specimen who despite being able to “run for days”, can’t pass, can’t shoot, can’t control the ball and/or doesn’t understand how to play defense. Depending on the sport, knowledge and skill could determine as much as 80% of a players overall performance. Because of this lopsidedness of skill versus strength and endurance, if a player wants to get better, they are better off working on improving their skills instead of improving their strength and conditioning.
But when it comes to exercise, skill plays a very small almost non-essential, role. Think about it, it doesn’t take much skill to pick up heavy things, or run up a flight of stairs, or do a bunch of burpees, but that is the point of exercise, keep the skill needed to a minimum so you can focus most of your energy doing work!
While these differences between exercise and sport may not be Earth shattering news, there are still a ton of people, mostly Lazy Gamers, who still believe that because they are the star of their Wednesday night softball league, they are in great physical shape. These lazy gamers hide behind their skill and game experience, refusing to exercise because they are “good at their sport”, clueless that this is a form of self-sabatoge. They are sabotaging their overall health and fitness because they choose to remain in their comfort zone instead of challenging themselves (with exercise). What these Lazy Gamers don’t realize is that once you become good at something, it does not take much effort to stay at that current level.
Remember learning to ride a bike? When you first started to learn it seemed impossible to balance, you crashed numerous times, you needed training wheels, but once you learned, the skill of riding a bike is never lost. This is what happens to Lazy Gamers, they become comfortable being “good enough”, not realizing that it takes very little effort to maintain their current skill level.
Now that we understand the differences in skill, what about those objectives? Well, the objective of exercise is to make you stronger, improve your cardio vascular system, help you reduce injuries, and improve your overall quality of life. However, the objective of sports is to win the game (let’s be honest, losing is never fun). Sports are not designed to get you in shape, they are designed to see who the best “player” is, whose skills are the best, and/or who has greater game knowledge, especially at the recreational level, being fit does little for you if you don’t know how to play the game. Also, if your skill level is “good enough” to win some games, you have very little incentive to work harder.
However just because the objectives are very different does not mean exercise and sports are enemies, they are far from it, in fact they are more like allies, each playing a specific role and when used together they can create an unstoppable force. Because sports give you what most people have a hard time finding, a reason to exercise! Not having a “good” reason to exercise (you would think wanting to be healthy is a good reason…) is usually why most most people quit, because exercising can be BORING, and it can be MONOTONOUS and because of this, if you don’t have a good reason WHY you will fail!
Never forget, exercise is a necessary part of the equation for helping you reach your full potential. In fact, what took me to my current fitness level was my love of Triathlon. I wanted to beat my previous times, I wanted to beat other people, and I wanted to beat Jessica 😉 , and this competitiveness pushed me to train harder, make better life choices, and improve my nutrition, all in an effort to get better at a sport! So my personal drive to become better at a sport, made me a better person!
So if you are having a hard time feeling motivated, I recommend finding a sport, a race, or some sort of physical hobby that will push you to become better. But please watch out for the “I am good enough trap”, remember no sport or hobby is a replacement for basic physical conditioning…basically what I am saying is;
Don’t be a Lazy Gamer!