Looking our best is definitely a driving factor that encourages many of us to exercise on a regular basis. Yet as satisfying as it is to work towards firm buns and a defined stomach, exercise has a much more practical purpose. Being able to lift that box yourself, or carry the heavy backpack all the way, or even being able to take the steps 2 at a time, this is really what a healthy and independent lifestyle is about.
Functional fitness is about being able to put your fitness and strength, into practical applications. Not just working to build a specific muscle group for aesthetic purposes, but actually being able to do all the amazing things your body can be capable of doing.
It is about strengthening the many muscles of your body in a balanced way, working on developing and maintaining flexibility and incorporating adaptability into your workouts.
The reality is that your regular workout isn’t as easily transferred into the real world as you might think. Regular deadlifts will definitely strengthen your glutes and quads; however picking up a still barbell in a controlled environment is a lot easier than picking up a squirming child, or moving furniture. There are weight variations, funny angles, potential movement of the object (a child!), uneven ground and a wide range of other variables that make the everyday activity a lot different to what you have trained for in the gym.
So how do we adjust our workout to better equip ourselves for everyday life? The answer lies in adaptability. If you spend each day at the gym, working your same routine, your body will adjust and you will no longer be working on keeping yourself adaptable and ready for anything. Instead you are strengthening and preparing your body for a specific set of tasks. For this reason mixing your workout up is a really important part of functional fitness.
So I challenge you to reflect on what your regular workout entails, and try and mix it up a bit. If you are a runner, maybe hit the weights a day or two a week. If you usually lift, try going for a run. If you are predominantly focused on the core, try working on your arms/shoulders and legs. If you don’t incorporate any stretching in your weekly routine, consider doing a yoga class or adding a longer stretch at the end of each workout.
Or even better; incorporate some fun outdoor activities that will really put your body to the test in new ways! Such as rock climbing, obstacle courses, or a sport such as volly ball or hockey!
Keeping your body fit, healthy and able will help you stay independent and enjoying life!