Over the past few years I’ve done it all. Marathons, Power lifting, Cross-fit, Body Building, Cycling (Indoor & Out door), Mountain Biking, Mountain Running, Bouldering, and many more to say the least.
All of those listed above are in my category of advanced and even extreme forms of fitness. Now, I’m not bragging; What I’ve learned from doing those extreme forms of ‘Fitness’ is they’re wonderful for a hobby, but how relevant is that modality of exercise for your every day life? Cause C’mon, how often do we need to be jacked and tan to attend work everyday? I really don’t think it would benefit much, other than for looks!
So what’s Functional Fitness?
Functional Fitness is the focus of building and maintaining a body capable of doing real life positions and movements, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an ideal posture etc.
For an example, yesterday, a client of mine was telling me how she went on a beautiful hike this past weekend and half way through the hike she had to cross over a stack of jammed logs to cross a creek and reach the other side. She was a bit hesitant because the logs had been slippery from the rain making it extra difficult to maneuver over and under logs without hurting herself or risk falling into the creek! So, to make a long story short, my client was able to use her upper body strength to lift and lower herself amongst the logs and her flexibility training had come in use to step-up and over the pile to arrive safely to the other side.
I was grinning with joy to hear her using her fitness for functional activities that she truly enjoys doing!
This is why Functional Fitness is the name of the game in my eyes. If my client from the story above had only been working towards say… ‘Cardio Endurance’ such as cycling or running, she might not have had the physical strength, flexibility and stability to make her way across the creek. Sure, she might have had no problem doing a 30 mile hike of flat terrain, but really - again, it all comes down to, is it relevant to her everyday life? Maybe it is, but lets be honest, for most people it’s not.
Power lifting, Body Building, Cross fit, Marathons etc. can be beneficial for some of us, yes. But, from my experience of partaking and working with individuals that participate in these advanced activities, it’s a high risk. I’ve seen countless amounts of acute and chronic injuries due to these extreme fitness activities, which leaves these individuals not only with a banged up bod but also a long journey ahead to recover.
Now, you might ask “Well if they’re doing these advanced forms of activities, aren’t they in good enough shape to be doing it anyways? Some Yes, but honestly - most No. The majority of individuals get into these activities because they see other people doing them, and they ‘look’ healthy. I would know - I’ve done it as well! They'll jump into 'the next best thing' without having a strong base of support that provides them a general fitness level to partake in the activity safely.
Not a smart idea in my book.
But what most of us don’t understand are the long term effects on the body of doing these ‘extreme’ forms of fitness. These people end up retiring from these activities because it’s too hard on their bodies and they need to slow down for the sake of their health. With wrecked shoulders, bad knees, cervical and spine issues, they have no other option but to literally back off.
This is when they seek functional fitness enthusiasts, like me. We help re –build and realign their physiques back to a natural state, so that they can continue forward with their lives and not deal with pain or risk being immobile later down the road.
If we go into our workouts with only the motivation of weight-loss, ripped abs, or winning in our next Figure Competition, what are we really gaining from our ‘healthy lifestyles’? I would even honestly ask the question- “Am I actually being healthy?” Because when we zoom into our only topic in our lives and only focus there, we lose sight of the big picture. That’s when the imbalances take place and not only within our bodies, but also in our minds.
Our fitness regimens need to be looked at from a whole, not one short-term goal to the next. When we approach our ways of exercise with what supports our bodies for the long-term, we embrace balance and longevity for the road ahead.
So if you know and feel your body is a bit out of whack, I encourage you to take some time off from your workouts and let your body heal. Take that time of recovery to really think about where your want your body and mind to be when your moving through different stages of your life.
We all strive to live healthy, long and youthful lives, so let’s start treating our bodies with the gentleness and ease of just that.
Embrace stretching, walking, yoga and all the real-life, functional activities you still want to be doing later down the road.