Na Pali TrailSometimes, when I’m working out, it seems like this or that silly exercise that Trainer Andrew is demanding that I perform just doesn’t make sense.  Why do I need to be able to do a lateral lunge while heaving a dumbbell up and down, from one side to the other?  I mean, other than ’cause Andrew said so.

Reason One — life skills.  If you read the article I posted on the 50, Fit and Fab Facebook page about functional fitness, then you know that being fit means being able to do all the things we have to do every day WITHOUT injury:  chop wood, carry water, lift baby, heave overstuffed bag into overhead compartment, move sofa, hold door with foot while carrying two arms full of groceries, carry angry cat in one arm and confused puppy in the other, stand on one foot while raising other foot within range of vision for painting toenails, assist elderly parent to a standing position and, well, you get it.

Reason Two — cellular health.  I think we can all agree that pretty much any way you move your body will increase your fitness, but I have a theory that functional exercises may have an added edge.  I’m no anthropologist, but I am a student of how our systems are evolving, and it seems like functional fitness has the ability to access some ancient part of us.  My naturopath, Dr. Kyle Hawk Cronin, agrees.  Dr. Cronin particularly believes that walking – sprinting is the most beneficial “cardio” workout because it is hardwired into our DNA.  Try it for yourself!  Our bodies seem to “know” what’s expected when we’re doing exercises that incorporate functional, multi-muscle movements.  My anecdotal observation is that I have less soreness and stiffness and a greater subjective feeling of strength and health when I’m doing functional routines as opposed to straight up weight lifting.

Reason Three — mental health.  Workouts can get boring.  Routines can be … well, routine.  We know we need to exercise, but it just seems so pointless!  That’s where functional fitness can come in handy.  When I’m doing some of those silly moves in the gym, I employ visualization to help me get through the workout which has three positive side effects — I’m able to work harder with less perceived effort, I’m exercising my brain, and I’m getting a big mood boost.  That unilateral pull down thing with the bar?  I’m paddling a canoe.  Squats with medicine ball overhead lift?  Portaging my backpack through the riverbed.  Fast walking on a steep incline?  Hiking up the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast in Kauai.  Try your own visualizations and see if it helps!

Putting the FUN in functional fitness ~ Puff

Leave a Reply