Functional Fitness: What does that mean?
Don’t worry. This is not going to be some technical treatise because I know that no one wants to read that crap and I don’t want to do the research. I’ve been working out most of my life and I know a lot but my knowledge is merely experiential and anecdotal. I am a total amateur even though I am often asked if I’m a “trainer” 🙂
My massage therapy practice is located inside a functional fitness training facility and my friends, family and clients glaze over when I tell them that. They ask, “What does that mean?, Is it a gym?, What’s the workout like?, Sounds really hard.” New clients passing through the gym on the way to my office ask if it’s Crossfit. No Virginia, it is not. Crossfit is many things but functional is not one of them.
So, think of a tool. Each tool has a function(s). Your body is a tool. We use it to carry, to climb, to reach, to step up and down, to lift, to hold, you get my drift. A functional workout is based on exercises that strengthen your body in the ways that you use it in daily life. For example, a common task you might do in your regular day would be picking up a heavy box from the floor. A corresponding functional exercise would be to bend down and lift a tire and flip it over. Much more fun!
For me, I need to pick up my 11′ paddleboard, lift it overhead and rack it on my truck. This is a whole body exercise that I don’t think I’d be capable of without my workout.
It’s not super heavy but at 11′, it’s pretty awkward!
I also firmly believe that my workouts help me on the slopes. I’m not saying that they make me a better snowboarder but they definitely make certain skills easier. Real important stuff like regaining your balance and not cartwheeling down the mountain after catching an edge. We do lots of exercises on one leg and/or with one arm and often with opposite leg and arm together (the big boy word is contralateral). We also do a lot of single leg balance drills. This shit has saved me so many times. My body has learned to be “comfortable” with feeling unbalanced and has learned how to pull it together.
In addition to helping improve balance, all the single leg, etc work forces you to brace your core for stability. Core is not abs and until you’ve done functional training, you do NOT know the meaning. Maneuvering on a snowboard with both feet strapped in can be challenging. There are times you are forced to jump uphill on your board (because you took a wrong turn at Albuquerque), stand-up from a sitting position off the flat ground, or to lift your board from the heel edge off the ground and flip it over to the toe edge so you can more easily stand up.
Getting out of this tree well was a workout in of itself! These moves require core strength. You don’t get it from machines, for sure.
To wrap up, a functional workout addresses your WHOLE body. Don’t cut your body up into “parts”, your body doesn’t work in parts! Left to our own devices, we tend to work on our favorite “parts” and skip the hard stuff or the stuff we’re bad at. If you think about it, the stuff you’re bad at should be the stuff you focus on 😉 Work smarter, not harder! Curious? Talk to me.