Workouts are more loosely defined than programs. Generally speaking, if you’re purposely moving, increasing your heart rate, and sweating, you’re doing a workout. This could include everything from a hike outside to a yoga class, game of pickup basketball, or gym session on your favorite machine.
While workouts can have a one-and-done nature or take shape as active play — being fun, random, and unplanned — they also can be built into exercise programming. “Each workout that’s tied to a program is a workout with direction,” says Brian Fox, CPT, and Alpha Master Coach at Life Time. “You’re on a path leading to a goal of some sort.”
Large group fitness classes, for example, are a great way to stay active. However, if you’re working toward specific fitness goals, they could be an example of when it’d be helpful to have them be part of a program, versus just something you do to keep moving.
The key to successfully including classes in a program is to work them in for endurance and cardiovascular benefits, rather than using them to replace a specific, formulaic workout. For example, you might use a cycle class to fulfill the need for a weekly high-intensity cardio session, if that’s what your program calls for.
“If you’re looking to move more, sweat, burn calories, and have fun, hopping into a group exercise class might be all you need,” says Shannon Flood, group fitness instructor at Life Time. “But if you have specific goals in mind, such as losing weight or getting stronger, large group classes may have a place in your plan, but as an approach alone, likely won’t be enough to help you reach those goals.”
Christine Warren, group fitness manager at Life Time, explains, “Every single person in a large group exercise class format has a different goal in mind, so rather than catering to the individual, the classes have to be structured to provide motivation and healthy movement for all.”
While staying active and getting in workouts as you can is great and may be enough for some, if you have specific needs or are going after a desired outcome, it’s important to understand that it’s possible to be very active and still not see the results you’re looking for unless you’re doing so as part of a tailored program.