Before we start comparing the two, let’s take a moment to define what Training and Practice are.
What is Training?
As a verb, training means “to make proficient by instruction and practice, as in some art, profession, or work.”
You can see that practice is part of training, but the more important aspect of this definition in my opinion is “instruction.” Instruction means you have a teacher or guide to help you learn a new skill. You could, in theory, go out and try something without an instructor and become proficient in it, but in that method, your instructor would be your own failures. You learn, through trial and error, what an instructor would guide you through.
So, we can describe training as the act of being instructed in a skill to improve your proficiency. This could be a new skill, or it could be a skill you already have but are looking to improve in a specific way. Taking a class, reading a book, watching a video – each of these can be a form of training
What is Practice?
As a verb, practice means “to perform or do habitually or usually.”
What does that mean? Well, in short, it means going out and repeatedly performing a task. Not necessarily to get better, but just to develop muscle memory with the skill in general. This could be hitting a heavy bag to refine your punching form or dry-firing your rifle to get reps in on your ready-ups.
Practice, for our purposes, is “getting the reps in.” Just do the thing until you no longer have to think about doing the thing.
So, what’s the difference?
If training requires practice and practice is “doing the thing,” then what’s the difference.
In short, the difference is the instruction and your familiarity with the material. To be training, you need some reference material or a person to tell you when you’re doing it wrong and how to improve. Practicing is trying to make every repetition as perfect as you know how to, but if you don’t know what perfect looks like then you cannot get closer to perfect.
But, Dusty, you ask, if I’m signed up for a class, does this difference really matter?
For most people, this difference does not matter, because the only time they are going to be practicing is when they are training in class. But you’re not one of those people, are you? You’re going to spend a few minutes on your days off practicing what you were taught in class, right?
Of course you will.
Training is easy – sign up for a class, show up, do what you’re told. Practice is hard, it requires self-discipline, motivation, and the right equipment. Training and practice are two sides of the same coin. You have to have the training to make your practice effective and you have to practice to make your training worth it. The trick is understanding the purpose of both.
Training is to learn a new skill or improve an old one. Practice is to internalize this new information so it is part of you. Without practice, your training is useless. Without training, you’re practicing wrong.
So, get out there and stop trying to learn a new skill when you should be practicing the skills you have. Then you’ll know when you’re ready for more training.