10 Fitness Tips Towards Functional Training
You may be following a gym training program, go for your daily jog, a two-hour yoga, Pilates or tai chi class, or you may prefer to work out at home. Whatever your fitness routine involves, and whatever technique you are using to stay fit, these 10 fitness tips apply to all methods.
Before we begin, ask yourself this question: "Why is working out necessary in the first place?" Well, unfortunately, it all comes down to a global epidemic which I call "Movement Deprivation Syndrome" or MDS for short. What's that, then?
Movement Deprivation Syndrome (MDS)
The entire civilized population of the world suffers from MDS (Movement Deprivation Syndrome). We are all deprived and prevented from moving freely. This is what the entire fitness industry thrives on: if the population wants to stay healthy, they must resort to spending extra time and money "exercising" just to stay alive (what with the wicked food and pharma industries, morbid obesity and diseases on a rise!).
So exercise and working out today are basic necessities, substitutes for moving in more ways than modern society and taboos allow us to. For example, you cannot suddenly climb up a lamp post in the street or you'll be taken to the nut house. Even stretching up one's arms while in a long queue at the airport causes people to suddenly look up to see what you are pointing at. In this way, we are deprived of moving like we used to many years ago when we were children (who are told to "sit still and behave").
While we suffer from the MDS condition and are thus forced to "exercise", the 10 fitness tips offered in this article are the least we must know to keep fit without harming the body in the process. Adopting and implementing these 10 fitness tips inevitably leads to the understanding that if we moved well in day-to-day activities all the time (with Functional Training), the need for spending extra special time exercising for exercise's sake would diminish immensely. In other words the better you move the less exercise you need. So what are those 10 tips that can lead to functional training?
The 10 Fitness Tips
The10 fitness tips are divided into three parts: (A) The Essential Basics, (B) How to Structure a Workout Routine and (C) Introducing Functional Training.
(A) The Essential Basics
2. Self Observation
3. Clothing and Shoe Ware
4. Fresh Air
5. Breathing and Timing
(B) How to Structure Any Workout Routine
6. Warm Up
7. Content (choosing most effective method and exercises for you)
8. Relaxation and Meditation
9. Recovery (with counter moves)
(C) Introducing Functional Training
10. Mindset and Diversity
Functional training makes you use and be aware of your muscles at all times to perform daily tasks at home or at work in the most efficient manner. It trains the body on the go with constant self correction. More about this in the final tip. For now let us go over each of the 10 tips in more detail one by one.
(A) Essential Basics - 1 to 5
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 terms of physical exercise, 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 high with arms overhead. 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 your practice. 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 working out at home, wear nothing, or your pajamas, 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 river bank. 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.
(B) How to Structure Any Workout Routine - 6 to 9
6. Warm Up
Before you start a workout, warm up your whole body. Put some music on and dance around. Allow your body to tell you which body parts need to loosen up. You may like to do a combination of arms swings and punches. Wriggle your hips. Do some kicks, neck rolls, or jumps for five minutes or so before you start.
If you don't feel that energetic, lie down on the floor and do some slow, improvised rolling, twisting, and stretching to loosen your joints and get warmed up. Improvising to music helps to instinctively move those body parts that need the most attention. Try it!
7. Content of Your Workout
Everybody is different and has different needs. The content of your workout will depend on whether you are working alone or in a group led by a teacher. If you are working on your own, it's important to find out which exercises work for your particular needs. If you are in a class or at the gym, you may have been given exercises to do that you either don't need or that are really uncomfortable for you. In that case, don't do them! Exercise is not punishment. Performing the right moves for you is an extremely pleasant experience. Dumbly following moves that are uncomfortable will do more harm than good.
Learn to remember the moves you like and which are effective for you. Ignore those that you hate doing. Never force yourself to perform an uncomfortable or painful exercise.
Fun Is the Half of It
Exercise without fun cannot, in the long run, be sustained. One of the most fun, and beneficial ways to exercise is using a Yoga Swing. The advantages are manifold in that you can perform risky, new moves in complete safety to any level, and enjoy very rapid progress. Watch the next video to see for yourself.
A Fun Way to Exercise - Yoga Swing on Venice Beach
8. Relaxation and Meditation
It is absolutely imperative that a workout 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.
A Mantra for a Relaxing Meditation
When you decide to come out of relaxation, back to the normal day-to-day world, follow the following procedure:
- Take a deep breath and stretch your full body, like when you wake up in the morning.
- Rebuild by slowly getting up to a deep squat.
- Lift your buttocks until your legs are straight but leave your upper body down, still forwardly bent, with your arms shoulders still relaxed. Let the head and neck hang loose.
- Now slowly pick up your spine from its base, the coccyx, one vertebra at a time.
- Lift up your neck (again, starting at the base) raising the head last of all.
- Lift your arms up high.
- Rise up on your toes and try to touch the ceiling.
- Slowly lower your heels while maintaining the wonderful tall, stretched feeling in the spine.
- Finally, lower the arms and relax the shoulders as if your arms were the empty sleeves of a coat.
That's it! You are ready to go, content, stronger, taller, and completely revitalized. However, it takes a lot of willpower and self-discipline to do nothing else but exercise on a regular basis. Could there be an easier way of staying fit while at the same time improving posture, flexibility, balance and strength?
There is and it's called Functional Training.
(C) Functional Training - 10
Introducing Functional Training
OK so you may fervently go to the gym or to fitness classes for a couple of hours a day or a week, but what happens when you come out? Do you go back to hunch over the 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 two-fold.
- Learn as many different methods, disciplines, and techniques as possible.
- Learn to move well and in the most body-friendly way at all times by applying the principles of Functional Training.
Bringing diversity into training is possibly the most important tip to consider. Drawing from many different disciplines and methods allows for frequent changes in one's workout routine. It's crucial to add newly discovered moves that are best suited to meet your individual needs at particular times in your life.
As you progress, feeling and looking better, your body will crave new, better, different, and more efficient ways to move. Explore and practice new moves that best suit your own body and situation. It can be a fun, interesting, and challenging personal quest! 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?
- Prepare your workout routine with your space all set, including a way to see what your body is doing (mirrors or video).
- Dress loosely (no shoes if possible), breathe fresh air.
- Warm up before and relax and / or meditate at the end of any fitness session.
- Diversify your workout routine regularly to respond to your body's curiosity and current demands.
- Consider the benefits of functional training to become a good mover at all times.
Have fun and please feel free to ask questions and share your views 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.