Just what is functional fitness?

It’s certainly a great buzz word but to me in all honesty all it means is doing exercises that enable you to function better in order to be able to do your daily activities.

The basics of functionality  — push, pull, squat (which means you should be able to hinge), lunge and carry.

How often do you consider whether your workouts assist and improve your daily movement.

How often do you come back from your workout beasted so that actually it is almost impossible to sit (squat) without pain and stiffness or you can’t lift your arms up after that upper body workout.

Okay so you definitely worked out and felt the burn but has this helped your overall ability to function and do your daily activities. Okay for arguments sake, yes it has helped certainly with squatting and lunges and those biceps and triceps are very tender but has this helped with reaching up to a cupboard and putting things away. Opening and closing a door efficiently rather than twisting awkwardly and using other areas of your body that perhaps didn’t need to get involved in the movement.

We all want the secret to staying young don’t we? We pound the treadmills, go to bootcamps, do crossfit to try and stay youthful but at the same time after that adrenaline high, we seem to find ourselves moving less efficiently and losing range of motion.

I’ve been thinking about functional fitness a lot within my pilates groups because I deal with older clients, clients that are well aware that their movement patterns are changing, their strength is deteriorating slightly and they really don’t want to find themselves stooped over as they get older so this month, September, part of my groups are spending each week looking at a functional dynamic of movement. We’ve covered squats/hinges in week one, we looked at shoulder mobility this week, in readiness of pushing actions next week next — which doesn’t just mean upper body.

Why am I programming like this, because I felt we needed a gentle reminder that it is important to be able to pull open a door without jarring/jerking our backs. We want to be able to push closed a door in a way that is stable for our shoulders. We want to carry without finding the weight of the bags drags our shoulders down to our toes. Lunging — well yes this needs work around ankle, knee and hip not just doing the action again and again in one plane of motion. When you step off the curb you are effectively lunging but if you are unable to support yourself standing on one leg at a time, this could become a serious problem as you age, leading to trips and falls.

As always, exercise should assist you in your daily living activities and if you are specialising in a particular athletic pursuit, then your workouts should help your body move as it needs to. We need to be fit for purpose, whatever our purpose is and although exercise should be fun, it also should achieve something for your physically as well as mentally.

Have a great day.