What is Functional Training

Ready to take your workout to a new level?  You’ve been building workouts you can do anywhere, now add an unstable surface and you’ve got functional training!  What is functional training? Well, functional training mimics activities you do in your daily life.  If the reason you avoid working out is because you think its rather boring to sit on a machine, lift weight ten times, rest as you stare off into space, lift again, and repeat on the next machine, I have news for you.  Functional training is fun, practical, applicable to your daily activities, develops your core strength so you have a stronger base to deliver power from, and a strong core helps keep you more injury free.

Think about what movement you would like to become better at. Is it playing with your children or grandchildren? What about a specific sport or skill in sport? Golf season is right around the corner. How about the ability to lift items out of your refrigerator without fear or moving from your couch to the bathroom? All of these items can be made better using functional training techniques.

We know that to get better at something we need to practice. Your mother was right when she made you sit at the piano for hours. You have to practice in order to create better neuromuscular efficiency. Basically put, the more you practice the better your brain gets at sending the signal to the muscle, “this is how I want you to move”. The more that pathway is repeated the more efficient you will be at the movement.

If you are trying get better at or to avoid injury during a movement or sport you must practice that particular movement. So I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t walk around doing crunch type movements all day, so why do a million during a workout? If I wanted to effectively train my abs I would look to more core aligned movements, which produce more power through strength development of the entire core. This would allow me to do the things I need to everyday. I have small children, I need to rotate, lift, move quickly in odd directions, and lift 30lbs of squirmy people at any given time. I do not need all my ab strength to allow me to crunch forward.

Try adding some functional training to your workout this week see what happens. First, pick a movement you would like to become better at. Start practicing that movement with no weight, then maybe with light weight, and finally on one foot. Next, begin creating an unstable surface with your basic strength training routine. Try lifting the heel of one foot while performing your lifts to create the unstable surface. If this is comfortable try to lift the whole foot off the ground for a one-legged more unstable surface. In yoga we concentrate heavily on foundation, or what is in contact with the floor during our movements. The same rule applies here, the smaller the foundation, the harder the core will work to stabilize you, therefore the more strong the core will become at adapting to slight movements of the body when put under stress (strength training), and the more you need to concentrate on alignment and proper form, keeping your mind more engaged. It is important, as always, to discuss your workouts with your health care provider and to make sure you are working within your own boundaries. Do not attempt to perform an exercise with bad form. You are better to do something small with good form rather than big with bad form.

Begin functional training and watch your abilities soar. You’ll become better adapted at moving in the patterns you do all day long. Maybe even make the greatest ESPN shot of the game ever recorded … No guarantees, though. Happy Training!

References:

Muscle That Matters – Paul Scott

The Functional Training Craze – Jesse Cannone

BodyBuilding.com

4 Steps for Finding Time For Fitness

Are you one of the many who feel you do not have time to exercise?  I hear it all the time.  “I have a job, kids, parents, housekeeping, ____fill in the blank____, I can’t exercise regularly.”    I am with ya.  I’ve got kids, a husband, extended family, work, housekeeping, a yard, but here is a secret, if I do not make time to exercise, I will have to make time to be ill. Pretty heavy words.  I don’t even like the way it sounds.  If not exercise, illness. So what can you do about your time issues?

First, be honest about them. Write down your daily schedule for a few days. Once you have a list of daily activities look for time sappers. Is there things you do regularly that suck your time up? One of mine is reading. I’ll grab a magazine for a break and do not put it down when it is time. Reading in itself is not the problem, its my ability to block out the other things that need to get done to finish an article I may not care much about. Many see this problem with TV. They sit down for a brief break and end up watching an entire episode of a show they do not care about or rather than leave a co-workers office when other things should be getting done you linger to gossip about items you could give a hoot about. No matter what your time sapper, the end result is the same: you still have the same chores to get done leaving you no time to do the things you want. What if you stuck to the brief break and turned the TV off after 10 minutes? Or if I put down the magazine when it was time to go back to work? I think over the course of a day you would probably find an extra thirty minutes.

Second, GO TO BED! Make sure you are getting adequate sleep. Our bodies rely on it to rebuild and when you cheat it you cheat yourself. You create a deficit which results in less productive days. These less productive days add items you were too tired to complete back on your to do list again resulting in the feeling of no time left. When you wake up with enough sleep you are focused and ready for the day’s challenges leaving you extra time because you’ll be able to get your list done early!

Third, are you good at time management. Even if you wake up refreshed you must be a good time manager if you are going to really get enough done in a day. Many interchange the word stress with busy. If you find yourself always busy you’ve got a problem. I don’t mean this mean, but if you are always running behind, find yourself in the never ending to do list, feel that as soon as you finish one project you must begin the next you may be inefficient or you need an assistant. Nobody can do it all. I see many people like this. They run around like just been butchered chickens, where do just been butchered chickens go? In circles. Then they talk to me about how stressed out they are, how everybody else needs them first, and how they could never take the time to lose the extra weight because they have absolutely no time to workout. Hmmmm….If you do not take time for yourself no one else will and on top of that most say nobody appreciates the extra work they do. I would say, no one appreciates the work they do because no one knows what they really do, how they do it, or why they are doing it. I know I have put on my yelling voice, but what I am really saying is; your time is yours, manage it well and it will serve you well. Your time is your most precious commodity and you are worth a lot so make sure what you spend it on is worth it. If you are always too busy examine why and then delegate jobs that are no longer worth your time and focus your attention on the tasks which are. I speak from experience, as I have 3 small children, own a business, write weekly, run a household, and am still able to take a bath most nights of the week, meet up with my friends, and spend quality time with my husband and kids. Delegation is key.

Finally, your time is yours. If you do not find time to move often you will have to find time for illness. Personally, my very valuable time is better spent walking in the park, working out, playing with my kids, hiking with my husband, and enjoying this glorious thing we call life.

Planning Home Workouts

Have you begun to move your workouts indoors?  I know this has been the theme lately, but it is important you plan for seasons if you are going to be sucmcessful this year.

Many clients are able to workout at home, but are unsure of where to start. They buy some hand weights, maybe a video, and if they are really brave go for the infomercial special, which is often later used as a clothes rack. How can you avoid adding to your dust collection?  In a word – planning.

It is much easier for most to create an effective strength training routine at home. It can be done on a limited budget, and can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Here are the things to consider when purchasing strength training equipment for home. First, what is your goal? Are you trying to build mass or lose weight? Are you trying to maintain? Is this equipment just for emergency use on those days where getting to the gym is not possible, or is this going to be your only source of strength training? These answers will direct your purchases. If you are looking for emergency use equipment, you can get by with little or no equipment depending on your program. This is where a professional can be very handy. A good personal trainer will help you design your program around your environment and make sure you are able to meet your goals. What a great Christmas present idea, one or two sessions can keep you focused. If you have equipment handy you will have no reason to miss a workout, however if you are using your home equipment just for emergency days you’ll want to make sure you have a good plan of action on non-emergency ones because you may not have enough to be effective over a long period of time.

Are you looking to do the majority of strength training at home? This can be a wonderful way to incorporate fitness into your life. It is a great way to role model healthy living for your children, and make fitness a family priority. Although, my children do not get to use my weights, they do workout with me using the same movements and many they create as they hop from step to step, mimic me, and learn about their own bodies. They are excited and interested in movement and habits formed early have a better chance of hanging on. Remember, the biggest factor in childhood obesity is parents. Help your children fight obesity – its never too late to start.

If you decide to strength train at home consider your current level of strength. How much can you easily lift now? Again, your goals are going to be important because they will dictate the progression of exercise, which will dictate how many weights you’ll need and how heavy they should be. What kind of space will you be able to dedicate to your workouts? Do you have room for a bench or ball? Do you have storage for different sized dumbbells? Will you dig equipment out of a closet or from under a bed to actually complete a workout? This is the big question! Will you do the workout? Once you know the answer to these questions you can begin to create space and build your equipment choices for your complete home strength workout.

As you begin to contemplate your goals for health look closely at your choices. There are many options for your fitness. You just have to be willing to move!

Indoor Interval Workouts

One of the biggest problems my clients face when choosing to move workouts indoors without cardiovascular equipment is keeping their heart rates up over a period of time.  At home they get bored easily and in other locations they may not be able to move fast enough long enough to really be effective. An easy way to reach your cardiovascular workout goals, keep from getting bored, and fit your routine inside is interval training.

In addition to cardio work, interval training can be strength training as well, giving you two workouts in one, as in the case of a super circuit routine. The trick is to watch your heart rate and set enough cardiovascular stations in between your strength moves to keep your heart rate up appropriately. It is not advisable that you lift the weight much faster than two to four seconds up, pause, and lower at the same rate. Lifting faster can increase your risk of injury and is likely to create an element of physics rather than your muscle in the movement. You could lift slower which challenges your muscle and mental focus differently and may be effective if you can maintain your elevated heart rate with enough cardiovascular stations.

When deciding how to move cardiovascular work inside it is important to consider your budget, what if any equipment you may need, the location you wish to workout in, your safety, and if you can realistically reach your cardiovascular needs in the new location. How will you retain your motivation as the activity becomes repetitive, and will you continue to push yourself as you become accustomed to the activities? Will you do a form of interval training, if so where and how will you get it done? Get creative – there are many options in our community for becoming active, even in the darkness of winter which is approaching, even if slowly.

What to Do When You’ve Got A Minute

Many of get strapped for time sometimes. This doesn’t mean you have to leave your fitness behind. A few well placed exercises throughout your day can help keep you on track and keep you energized through your crazy schedule.

1) Do a few sets of squats. Add some external weight by holding canned goods, water bottles, or other things lying around you can hold and which add more weight to your frame.

2) Run stairs – in the office, in the park, around town, at home – where ever you can find them – run them.

3) Park and ride (a bike), walk, run, skate a portion of your commute


Track your movement everyday:

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4) Do step-ups – using a sturdy bench, chair, or step step up and down as though your were participating in a step class or doing a strength training exercise – see #1 for overloading

5) Carry a kid – don’t have one of your own – borrow one. Playing with your kids (or someone’s) can add fun and creativity into your busy day and get you quality time with a child who needs you.

When you’ve got more than a minute try this routine:

Exercises To Do When You Have Kids

mother, father and daughter on a blue racetrack

Any of them! No seriously I know having kids and dogs and parents and a job and … the list could go on can get overwhelming and make it really really really hard to fit everything into your schedule. However – If you don’t make time to fit fitness in – Nothing else will fit!
It is important that you take time for you. The better health and wellness you have the more able you are to take care of those around you. Here are some ideas to help you find time for fitness in your schedule.

First, take a hard look at what you are doing, when, and why. Cross of anything you feel is a drain on you. This doesn’t mean you have eliminate it totally. Its just a starting point.

Next look for crossed out items from above and see which ones really can be eliminated. Many times we are doing things just because we always have. Now is the time to examine if these are still things that need to be done. For example, I am still washing, drying, folding, and putting away Johnny’s socks and underware – and Johnny is 16 yrs old. Johnny could be doing that on his own, not to mention the favor you’d be doing his future partner by teaching Johnny to care for his own clothing.

Finally, look at the crossed items that you can’t eliminate but that you could share. Like cooking dinner, changing sheets, typing certain reports, childcare, parent care, puppy care, taxi-ing your family and friends, or hours spent gossiping around the break room at work. Gossip while walking or over lunch instead. Many have trouble asking for help and believe the busier and more stressed we are the more important we are. Is that really true? NOPE – we are just more busy and more stressed and did I mention more busy. Doesn’t mean we are getting any more done.

For some the above ideas will seem like an impossible task. But I challenge you to live your life for you. Place the word want to into your time commitments and if it doesn’t seem to fit and causes possible vomit – its time to revamp your time!

How to Stay True To Your Exercise Goals When You Celebrate

This month is my birthday month and I like to celebrate all month long. Ok, I am an attention hound and it is great to have a whole month in which to ask for and get attention. And I milk it! However, if I am not carefully all that good food and fun times can go right to my waist without a second thought. Here are some tips to stay on track even when you are celebrating.

Image of friends having  fun together at a party

Plan ahead. Its important to think about your eating and drinking patterns when you are scheduling events. Planning ahead helps keep you aware of how much and when you consuming calories.

The basic equation on weight loss is:
Calories in need to equal Calories out in order to maintain weight. Usually, we see this broken down into daily caloric needs, however it doesn’t have to be a daily calculation it can be a time thing. So if I know I have an event coming up I can plan to cut back on my caloric needs a few days in advance knowing I am going to eat a few more calories during the event.

It is important to plan for fitness. I like the pay it forward idea from above. If I know I have a weekend getaway or a late night and I am not going to be able to workout the following day or days I can workout harder the week or so before. This allows me to burn more calories going into the party keeping my basic equation (above) on track. It is important to keep in mind this is not a green light to over consume calories after each workout because it was really hard!

Finally, have a great time. As with anything it is important to consider moderation – not only in what you eat and drink – but also in your workout schedule. There will be times when working out may have to take a back burner and that’s ok. It doesn’t become a problem until you realize your workouts haven’t seen the front burners in a long time. Follow the 80/20 rule. Eat and exercise well 80% of the time and plan that about 20% of the time things will come up, you’ll be caught off guard, or you’ll have to focus your attention on something else.

Happy Celebrating – I know I’ve had a great month – the best one of the year!

Three Exercises To Do When You Are Short On Time

You are into your workouts. You know when, where, and how long you are going to workout. You know which exercises you are going to do and why you are doing them. You are almost to your workout time – when something derails you! Now what are you going to do? You know you need to workout and you really want to but your time just got cut way short. Here are three exercises you can do to work the majority of your body quick!

The Push-Up – push ups focus your work on the chest and triceps (back of the upper arm). Remember safety. Keep your core tight. This allows you to work the abdominals and lower back as you stabilize your movements. You can do push-ups on the wall, on your hands and knees, or on your hands and toes. You can also change arm positions to emphasize the muscles differently.

The Squat – A basic squat gets most of your lower body. Your quadriceps work to extend your knee as you stand, your glutes and hamstrings work through the hip extension, your tibialis anterior (front of the lower leg) may do work as you flex at the ankle and your gastrocnemius and soleus (calfs) may work if you finish the movement on your toes. Add in plyometrics and jump and you’ve added another layer of work.

The Pull-Up – pull-ups work your latissimus dorsi in either shoulder adduction or shoulder extension depending on where you choose to place your hands (your grip can be narrow or wide depending on the bar you are using). As you pull yourself up you must bend the elbow which is accomplished by your biceps. Again, this can be a very difficult exercise but can be modified to meet your needs. You can lie flat on your back with a chair on either side of you. Place a sturdy bar over the chair seats (make sure the chairs or the bar are not going to move) and pull up only your upper body. You can use a table, counter, playground equipment, etc to modify the height you are pulling up from. The lower the bar the less weight you’ll have to lift. As you become stronger you’ll be able to lift more of your body weight – until all the sudden you’ll be able to lift your entire body weight!

So in just three exercises you have trained your:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Possibly your calfs and front of the lower leg
  • Back
  • Biceps
  • And throughout your abdominals, lower back, and shoulders have stabilized your movements and worked in an isometric contraction.

Check out my YouTube Channel for home workouts, exercises, and equpiment ideas to set up your home gym… And yourself up for success. 

And you thought your workout had to be long!

Change Up Your Workout

If you are plugging along with the same ole’ workout and still are working toward a particular goal it may be time to change it up. The body gets good at our overloads which means it becomes efficient. When this happens you are not working as hard and we tend to plateau. Many of us just get bored.

So maybe add intervals, change the days you workout, if you haven’t been strength training or doing cardio add it in, or maybe add more of it. Check the internet, magazines, or hire a trainer to get some fresh ideas and new exercises for your routine. Sometimes the small changes are the ones which keep you moving forward.

Fall Into Fitness

If you have looked around your life and daily planner and found fitness is missing its time to fall back into fitness this year. Ask yourself what do you want to be looking back at next year and looking forward to as September rolls around in 2010.

Fall is arriving. Its getting cooler and darker. As we move through seasons its a great time to change or add to your workout routine. For many following the seasons seems natural. During fall we are preparing to come inside. Inside our homes and ourselves. Gardens are going to seed and birds are moving south. Its a time of change. If you looked around this week and felt change occurring but realized you have let your fitness slide now is the time to add it back in. If you have been doing the same ole’ same ole’ workout, now may be the time to change it up or add more to it.

Examine what you have been doing? Where have you put your fitness emphasis? Has it been on weight loss and now needs to shift to weight maintenance? Were you training for an event which is now over and your workout motivation seemed to stay behind as you drove off the event grounds? Are you still working toward the same goal but have now moved into a different phase of training and its time to add more intensity to your work to stay effective?

And remember, as always, its all about you. Your choices, your changes, your life.