What’s Your Function?

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In the 1990s, the words “functional training” became popular. All of a sudden it seemed there was a better way to train your body and stimulate your core. Like your favorite Top 40 hits, the word function was played out and lost its flavor. Not to mention, people interpreted their own meaning of function and it became synonymous with standing on a single leg or unstable surface to active your “core”! Just FYI, walking is amazing at stimulating your core too…but more on that later.

As time has passed, the true meaning of function is starting to prevail: function is who you are and what you do. In other words, train your body to do what you normally do so you can get better at it. Getting better includes performance, prevention and recovery.

Essentially your “function” is tied to your individuality, your interests and your experiences. If you are an auto mechanic and your job revolves around lying on your back to inspect the underside of a car, it behooves you to incorporate a conditioning program that gets you training from your back. If you’re a surfer and you have to learn how to balance on an unstable surface (water), it’s smart to train and condition yourself on top of unstable surfaces, like a balance board. If you’re a mother of three and you need to carry one kid on your arm while you squat, lunge, reach, push and pull, it makes little sense to do lots of “core” work from your back because you don’t need to be effective from that position.

I’m all for functional training as long as it’s functional for YOU. There is, however, one universal activity we all have to do to be effective in life: walking! Try these three movements to improve your ability to walk efficiently:
1. Stand with one foot ahead of the other, lead foot elevated on a chair/step; start with your right foot forward
2. Repeatedly bend your front (right) knee forward and back at a moderate pace within a comfortable range
3. Each time as you bend your knee forward, do each of these five times:

a. Swing your hands overhead to create a long belly
b. With hands overhead, let both hands fall to the right (bend right)
c. With arms out at shoulder height, swing both arms to the right (twist right)
d. Switch legs and repeat

These easy steps turn on your core and create flexibility and strength in the “zone” of walking. Each time you sit for any extended period of time, perform these simple movements to reverse the effects of sitting. You’ll simply enhance your walking function by promoting comfort, good posture and core strength.

Excited? Slow Down!

So I’m walking down a New York City street when someone very loudly shouts at a friend, which startled me to say the least. Whatever I was thinking about left my mind, my heart rate started racing, my hands were shaking and I became very aware of my surroundings. Interestingly, this is exactly how our body feels when we propel it full speed into a fitness program it’s not prepared for.

When you start a new fitness program, it’s easy to get carried away and try to do everything all at once. Once officially in pursuit of your goals, you immediately want to workout five days per week, start drinking more water, make better eating choices, get to sleep earlier…the list goes on and on. Take a moment to think about how your mind and body feel when you place this huge demand on them to do everything at once — a lot like how I felt when I was startled in NYC: STRESSED!!! Then realize that where you are today was not an overnight decision — it was an accumulation of decisions that lead to this very moment. Your new goals and desired changes will happen exactly the same way — over time!

Let’s pair your next pursuit of wellness with success. And the way to do this is to keep it simple. With your goal in mind, do two things. First, tie a value to your goal. In other words, establish why you are doing what you are doing: self-confidence, comfort, appearance, family, health? This value is what drives you to make the right decisions. Second, identify one behavior you can change that will help you move towards your goals. Maybe it’s getting more sleep, avoiding diet soda, committing to an active lifestyle or repairing a broken relationship.

Identify a specific goal → Pair your goal with a value → Change one behavior

This simple approach empowers you to make change at the pace change happens: one decision at a time. Over time, your focused changes will add up to a magnificent transformation — because you made the change process sustainable.