Functional Training During Daily Activities–6 Useful Tips
Functional training makes you aware of your posture and muscles at all times while performing any daily task or activity at home, at work, or anywhere else so that you perform these tasks with the utmost efficiency and comfort. Conscious functional training works the body on the go with constant self-correction.
OK, so you may fervently go to the gym or fitness classes for a couple of hours a day or a week, but what happens when you leave? What happens the rest of the time, when you are not working out? Do you go back to hunching over a computer? Are you aware of your posture when you shop, clean, and take out the garbage? Functional movement training is a technique that teaches moving in the most efficient way during normal daily actions at all times.
Many of my clients regard exercise as a burdensome duty that they must do whether they like it or not, thinking: "Oh, I hate doing this, but I better get on with it. Once I'm into it, I'll be OK, and I'll feel better afterward. Besides, I have to do it, or I'll grow fat and ugly!" That is the wrong mindset. Why?
As soon as "exercising" becomes a repetitive burden, it can often do more harm than good with RSI (repetitive strain injury) and the punishing psychological damage that the "hamster on the wheel effect" causes. So what is the solution?
The Solution Is Simple
Learn to move well and in the most body-friendly way at all times by applying the practice of functional training. Expand your movement vocabulary to include new moves in daily activities, for example:
- Squatting down to get something from the bottom of the fridge
- Climbing the stairs two by two
- Reaching up to a washing line blowing in the wind
- Hanging from the branch of a tree
- Swinging from a bar
- Jumping over rocks in a stream
- Pulling a full shopping cart on a sloped cobbled surface
- Lifting and playing with a child
There are hundreds of challenging activities that can expand your functional movement vocabulary to make it more diverse than it is at present.
7 Fitness Tips for Functional Training
The 7 fitness tips are a means of becoming more aware of how the body moves. The aim is to lose bad, damaging movement habits while replacing them with more healthy and beneficial ones. In order to achieve the following parameters (or tips) have to be taken into account.
- Environment (Space)
- Self Observation
- Clothing and Shoe Ware
- Fresh Air
- Breathing and Timing
- Relaxation and Meditation
1. Environment (Space): What Is Your True Height?
The first tip to consider is where to exercise. Find enough space to move freely. Enough space means lying on the floor on your back with your limbs stretched out to make the largest possible X shape without hitting any people or furniture.
In body language, your true height is not the measurement from the floor to the top of the head. I always make my clients aware of their true height in space by asking them to rise up onto the ball of the feet (relevé) and reach up as high as possible towards the sky or the ceiling.
Ditto with your true width: Spread the arms far out sideways to become aware of the full amount of space your body can occupy, then twist the torso round and round to feel all your personal space in 3D.
A room full of furniture or a crammed aerobics class just doesn't give people the space the body needs to move through its full potential range of movement. Space comes first.
2. Self-Observation: Become Your Own Teacher
The second tip is to be aware of what you look like. Step out of yourself and see yourself as others see you. To control your posture and performance, you need a full-length mirror in which you can see your whole body in profile and from all directions. This may be achieved by standing with your back towards a large mirror and using a small handheld mirror at an angle to find your profile and your back view.
Alternatively, take video shots of yourself. These will often reveal unexpected surprises about your performance, which can always be improved. By observing yourself, you become your own teacher.
3. Clothing and Shoe Ware
The third tip may seem obvious. Wearing the latest tight-fitting elasticated fitness gear and most expensive trainers will not help you get fit. If you are at home, wear pyjamas, shorts, or very loose leggings and a T-shirt. Most importantly do not wear shoes. If you are working out at the gym, wear the most comfortable, simple attire and, if allowed, take your shoes off.
4. Fresh Air
In fourth place is another crucial tip that is so often ignored: the quality of the air you breathe while exercising. Air-conditioned or centrally heated buildings are not the body's favourite places to be in, let alone to exercise. The lack of clean fresh air in cities and city buildings makes it almost impossible to find a place to exercise that provides enough clean, fresh air.
Some people do tai chi or yoga in parks; others play volleyball on the beach. Any form of outdoor activity is beneficial to the body. Walking, playing outdoor games, climbing a mountain, cycling along a riverbank. These are just a few of the many activities to choose from instead of locking yourself up in a noisy, stuffy, crowded gym. If you are working out at home, open the window (pollution permitting).
5. Breathing and Timing
Number five deals with the coherence of action, breathing, and timing, as shown below. An exercise is like a synergy wave of energy, breath, and rhythm. This principle can be illustrated by a simple exercise: Try squeezing a fist while following the chart below to feel the power of breathing and timing. Count to eight as you breathe in and squeeze your fist, and again as you breathe out and relax your hand.
Simple, 8-bar, phrased music helps to keep both rhythm and timing coherent and steady.
6. Relaxation and Meditation
It is absolutely imperative that any strong activity finishes with a period of full relaxation. Lie flat on your back with your eyes closed. Visualize every part of your body, starting with the feet, and move up the through the body. Fully give in to gravity. On each breath out, sink deeper into the floor until you can hardly feel the weight of your body at all.
When you have reached complete relaxation, you may slip into a meditative state. Like emptying the bin of your mind, this altered state of consciousness clears all the worries and clutter. It is the cream on top of the cake. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and come back to the here and now, ready for a full recovery.
Bringing diversity into movement is possibly the most important factor to consider. Drawing from many different disciplines and methods allows for frequent changes in one's movement patterns. Explore and practice new moves that best suit your own body and situation at particular times in your life and leave out the movements that you feel uncomfortable with. The uncomfortable moves will, in the long run, damage the body.
Functional training can be a fun, interesting, and challenging personal quest to make you feel and look better. So don't stick to the same dumb exercise routine like a robot and end up at the chiropractor. Use your curious mind and find diversify to please and heal your unique body.
Where do YOU Exercise?
Hopefully, the 7 fitness tips towards functional training have sufficiently increased your body intelligence to give you a little internal voice asking, "Am I really comfortable sitting like this or performing this action?". The little voice is constantly checking and correcting your movement behaviour. It encourages you to take an interest in practicing functional training throughout the day until your movement style becomes efficient, comfortable, and graceful.
Above all, if you seriously implement functional training in your day to day activities, you may never need to "exercise" ever again!
Have fun, and please feel free to ask questions and share your thoughts in the discussion below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.