Focusing on functional fitness

Focusing on functional fitness

Are you diligent about getting in regular exercise to ensure that you stay fit and healthy? Even after that do you wonder why so often towards the end of most days you have an aching back? Or do you lift weights and have a personal trainer taking you through the paces in the gym but an afternoon of playing with your kids leaves you feeling tired and breathless or you find yourself struggling to finish a trek with your friends.

What you need to introduce your body to is functional fitness. Functional Training seems to be the much touted current fitness mantra of gym trainers, doing the rounds in fitness clubs world-wide.  So what is Functional Training and why do we need it?

Having spent endless hours working on varied (and impressive-looking) strength-training machines individuals, along with their trainers, are coming to the realization that such training alone is not necessarily enough to help achieve their goals.

Quality of Life 

Individuals today also want to enjoy the process itself; so increasingly, fitness programs are not looked at for just that – exercise.  They are also expected to provide a more holistic result with an emphasis on a mind-body connection leading to an increase in quality of life.

This is because many people nowadays use their fitness routines as a means to an end rather than as the end-result.  People are engaging in activities that require a certain level (and type) of fitness: outdoor-cycling, trekking, water-related activities (deep-sea diving, river rafting, water-skiing), mountaineering, walking tours, rock-climbing and more.

This is where people are discovering that conventional gym-training is not comprehensive enough to safely and successfully engage in such activities. To take it further it is not just other activities that ‘regular strength-training’ workouts do not necessarily help with but even after such exercise programs people find themselves lacking in functional mobility and strength to carry out daily living tasks.

 Training the body

Hence the current focus on functional fitness; the emphasis being on training and strengthening your body to handle real-life situations and activities.  From the daily stair-climbing to your home, carrying your groceries, playing with your child, sitting for extended hours in front of the computer, driving long distances, to any of the physical outdoor activities mentioned above.
You may be pushing heavy weights in your strength workouts in the gym but how come your back gave way while attempting to lift that 30kg suitcase?

Functional exercise is about teaching your body to move as an integrated whole; rather than in isolation which leads to weak links in our bodies causing stress and injuries. 

The focus is on increasing one’s body-awareness where the body learns to control and balance its own weight. It trains our core muscles to enable us to do everyday activities safely and efficiently.
Another reason functional training is gaining focus is related to our current lifestyles where we have replaced many daily chores and actions with automated conveniences.

Compare this to the active lives of our parents and grandparents which involved a wide range of activities in their daily lives whether it was commuting to work (unlike our air-conditioned cars) or managing a household to more.

Training for functionality

Our current lifestyles have led to limiting our daily activities resulting in weakened muscle and joint systems along with reduced core stability.  Functional fitness exercises simulate common movements that we engage in at home, work and in sports.

Using spring-based resistance machines such as reformers, stability chairs, stability cushions, wobble boards and more we can strengthen our core while working the entire body as an integrated whole instead of working muscles in isolation. 

Having said this I would be remiss in not pointing out that unfortunately, often due to lack of knowledge and professional instruction, these training methods can do more harm than good to the body.  Bio-mechanics and good form are integral.

For example, I often hear individuals boasting of how they are able to hold a plank position for an extended period of time.  Yes, the plank is an excellent core-strengthening exercise; however if not done correctly and without instruction on using the relevant stabilising muscles it will only lead to a lot of stress on the lower back, neck and shoulders; leaving you open to injury rather than a fitter body.

Adding functional training to our fitness program is more of a necessity than we realize and making it a part of our fitness program will only lead to an increase in the quality of our life.  An important reason indeed!

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