Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#6 Be Functional
There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit. These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts. Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals. One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance. However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness. For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.
To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term. There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything. The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.” This definition is a little bit better. We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different. This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit. The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.” Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation. At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition. If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal. If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility. If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves. Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness. Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.
Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1
Functional fitness started out with the best of intentions. Good strength coaches and Physical Therapists saw a disconnect between the machine based and single joint isolation work that many bodybuilders had popularized in the 80s and 90s, and wanted to promote training that made the body more resilient and better able to perform daily tasks. When we are talking about being functional, we simply want our training to help us with day to day tasks and reduce injury risk. This is typically best done by training on our feet, on the floor, single arm/single leg, and using multi joint movements. An easy recommendation is that no more than ⅓ of your training should involve sitting, machines, or single joint movements unless you have major orthopedic limitations. Pushing, Pulling, Carrying/Crawling, Squatting, Lunging/Step Ups, and Hip Hinges should all be a regular part of your weekly training plan with each pattern being performed 2 times per week or more ideally.