How do you train to fight a 109 inch, 180 pound Striped Marlin…for over an hour?!!! Well, that’s probably not of much concern to most of you. However, you do have your own demands for the lifestyle you lead, and your training should prepare you to meet those demands.
What type of training should I do? Have you asked yourself that question before? It usually starts with a goal; typcially weight loss or getting more muscle tone. That’s a great place to start. I think everyone should at least have one goal to focus on with their training, no matter how small that goal may be. Goals give you a reason to plug away – sometimes painfully – at a reward that you relish. That’s HUGE as far as compliance is concerned. So you’ve got a goal…not what?
There are infinite amount of ways to exercise in a gym, even as it relates to your goals. Amongst those ways, many won’t allow you to reach your goals. Exercise programming is very specific, especially as you become more and more a veteran to lifting weights, running, or whatever type of exercise you choose. This article isn’t going to discuss the specific programming necessary to achieve your specific goals, as the number of goals are many, and as I just stated, there’s infinite amount of ways to achieve those goals. What I am going to write about is that no matter what your goal is, your training should be “functional”.
Functional training is a buzz term in the fitness industry. Depending on who you read or listen to it will have different definitions. Unless you’re a fitness professional, I’m going to bore you to tears with descriptions of ideas such as, open vs. closed chain, and righting/tilting reflexes. So for the purpose of giving you a quick and easy understanding to move forward with, I’ll give you MY typical, broad description: Functional exercise is any exercise that has a direct correlation to, and positive impact on, how you function in the enviroments you live in. Let me give you some real life examples:
Do you shop for groceries and carry bags from the store to your car, and then into your home? Have you ever decided to move your furniture around, or maybe even move your entire home from one to another? That’s a pain in the butt, huh? Do you have kids that demand to picked up, carried, and maybe even shakin’ upside down (just kidding on that last one ;) ? Do you hike, garden or fish? It’s a bit of a rarity today, but do you have a job that requires some real, physical labor? If you answered yes to any of these questions you’ve got a reason for functional training. If you answered no to them all, well, then chances are you’re still going to need to squat out of the chair you’re probably reading this from, and that requires functional movement!
Functional training usually mimics closely the type of movement required of you to live your life. If you hike, stepping and lunging exercises closely mimic what you encounter on your outings. If you garden, squatting and bending will benefit you. Carrying dumbbells or kettlebells while walking (called a Farmer’s Walk) mimics carrying grocery bags. Barbell and dumbbell presses overhead can condition those of you who require overhead strength (ex., putting boxes up on shelves, playing basketball, painting walls). To go back to the squat…you gotta squat to get on and off the toilet! How difficult you need to make your functional training has to do with how demanding your environment is.
Obviously, it doesn’t take much for most of us to get on and off the toilet. But, what about the UPS worker? How demanding is that job? Very! Carrying your newborn around might not be too much work, but just wait a year or two. You can (and should) train in the gym (or wherever) to not only complete the physical demands required of you safely and well in the environments you live in, but you should also train with consideration that you’re aging and performing as you do now will get more difficult.
Functional training helps you plan for the inevitable loss of physical ability as you age. If you want to continue to run, lift, and function as you are currently…train with that in mind. Train with functional movements so that you can continue to do what you do and live as you wish. You don’t have to be 75 years old to feel the inevitable decline in your abilities. I bet most of you in your 40’s and 50’s don’t feel like you can run around, play, and lift like you could as a teenager or in your 20’s. But, some of you perform darn near close and others of you who took to working out late in life might even say that you perform better now. Both of those are scenarios due to good, physical training.
Now, if reeling in 180 pound fish is part of the environment you live in from time-to-time…I suggest you just train for such an occassion by fishing more often for big fish! There are exercises in the gym that mimic the physical demands of the catch process, but there’s NO WAY you’ll mimic the adrenaline rush.