Functionality: The Key to Achieving Your Next Fitness Goal
There are countless reasons why most of us fail to achieve our fitness goals: injury, insufficient motivation, busy lifestyles, boredom, lack of results. The list goes on. But there’s one factor, often overlooked by fitness professionals, that can make fitness goals more attainable: functionality. Having a functional body means having the ability to perform the movements the human body was designed to perform (crawling, walking, running, throwing) in a way that, when repeated over time, doesn’t result in pain. Functionality is important in the context of achieving fitness goals because it represents the baseline of healthy human movement—if you can’t get the basics without pain, there’s no way you’ll be able to achieve more advanced fitness goals.
One of the reasons why people often fail to achieve their fitness goals is that they bypass functionality, focusing instead on surface level goals like losing weight, lifting heavier, or running a longer distance. But this approach is both ineffective and potentially harmful. Think about it. If you set a goal to run a marathon, but don’t first ensure you have a functional gait cycle, you’ll end up with either performance issues (slower times, fatigue) or injury. Even if you’re able to finish the race, over time, a dysfunctional gait pattern is guaranteed to cause pain and/or problems with performance. So regardless, bypassing functionality is destructive; either you fail altogether and can’t complete your goal, or you achieve your goal but harm your body in the process.
The best way to set yourself up for success is to train functionally. But what does functional training look like? There are four key characteristics you should look for in any functional training program:
Carryover into Everyday Life
The easiest way to determine whether you’re training functionally is to examine whether your workouts make you more or less able to perform movements needed in everyday life. Do your workouts improve your ability to walk, run, play with your kids, pick things up, etc? If the answer is no, your training isn’t functional.
Quality Movement Education
While intense workouts, like crossfit or boxing classes, can be fun, they’re useless if they provide no instruction on how to scale the quality of your movements. Sure, workouts with tons of burpees and HIIT exercises will get you super sweaty and exhausted. But if you’re doing these movements without the proper education on how to do them effectively and safely, then you may be burning calories, but you’re most likely doing more harm to your body than good.
Less Susceptibility to Injury
When people get injured at the gym, they often blame working out too hard or lifting too much weight. But more often than not, their injuries are a result of dysfunctional movement patterns repeated over time, not freak accidents. If you’re training functionally, working out will very rarely cause you injury-related pain. In fact, a functional workout routine will prevent injury, rather than cause it.
Integrated Training (Whole Body Training)
Another trend in fitness is the idea of targeting certain areas. For example, doing glute exercises to build your butt, or ab exercises to get a six-pack. But if you think about it, as a human, you never need strength only in an isolated muscle group. Having really big gluteal muscles, for example, will not make you more able to perform the movements your body was designed to perform. But you might need the ability to do integrated movements, like moving quickly from standing still to sprinting, which requires that multiple muscle groups and bodily systems work together. Functional training mimics this natural integration by training your whole body through compound, full-body movement patterns, rather than focusing on one body part in isolation.
Even though functional training is crucial to healthily achieving any fitness goal, most people don’t prioritize it. That’s because prioritizing functionally requires a shift in focus from reaching for surface-level goals to valuing health and longevity, and unfortunately, most people aren’t in a place where they’re more concerned about their health than their appearance. What people don’t understand is that when you start training functionally and focus on your longevity, those aesthetic results, like losing weight or getting strong, happen as a byproduct. All it takes is a shift in focus.
For more information on how functional training can up your game, book a consult today.