Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are you functionally fit?

I hear this buzz word a lot in fitness circles, functional fitness.  What does it mean to be functionally fit?  For me, its about having a fitness level that will allow me to move freely through the myriad of situations daily life throws at me.  I can run & play with my kids easily & with energy.  I can lift heavy boxes, move furniture, and do yard work without worrying about injury or straining.  Essentially, my fitness level allows me to work & play with a relative sense of ease.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan of long distance running.  I'm also not a fan of lifting weights for the same reasons, its not necessary and the risk of injury outweighs (no pun intended) the benefit.  That is not to say that I do not regularly partake in lifting heavy things.  The heaviest thing I lift is about 145 lbs..  My body.  I'm a huge fan of body weight work, particularly in the form of yoga.

My story of weight lifting reads much like my story of running.  Many attempts and many failures at continuing with a consistent program.  The absurdity of it all hit me as I was lifting weights on a hydraulic machine at the gym, a machine that counted my reps for me and adjusted the weight load with a push of a button.  That's not functional in any way!  To be honest, it seemed downright soulless.  There was no mind/body connection with my movement, it was simply a precisely targeted exercise done while mindlessly listening to music on my ipod.

Yoga, on the other hand is about a connection with my body.  The time spent in yoga practice each week are truly about me, about my body and about creating a genuine understanding and awareness of how my body moves & works.  Now, thats functional!

Add to this, I am stronger than I've ever been.  I have defined shoulder & bicep muscles, I can do a push up or 10 (but I much prefer chaturanga) , I can even do a chin up (oh no, not a dead hang - but if I give a little leap, I'm up there and I can lower myself with control!), I can hold a plank position for 90 seconds, I can easily squat below parallel (but I much prefer utkatasana) and if I really try hard, I can even do a dive bomber (but I much prefer dolphin dips).   The other day, I completely surprised myself by holding an arm balance for more than two seconds!

I'm functionally fit.  And its never meant that I've had to count reps mindlessly while lifting cold, hard plates at the gym.   I've been able to achieve this by doing exercise that is truly enjoyable.  Of course, I've had moments where I was silently swearing at my yoga teacher while trying to hold a long pose, but the feeling of connection was even stronger at that moment as my body spoke very loudly and clearly to me (as did my mind, which I've come to learn is considerably weaker than my body in those situations).

We all have different paths to fitness, but I'd encourage you to seek one that allows you to achieve a level of fitness that will enable you to move through your days with ease, grace, mindfulness & agility!  Be that through yoga, the Primal Blueprint Fitness Program, body weight work, Crossfit, or whatever you enjoy.  The point is to keep lifting heavy things, keep moving your body, and stop using those darn soulless weight machines at the gym!

Because, you never know when you'll need to rely on your body to do some hard work...

This fall snowstorm yesterday gave me the opportunity to lift lots of heavy, wet snow.  It took an hour of shoveling to finish this big job.  I was thankful for my strong shoulders, and quadraceps! 

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