What does ‘Training for Tomorrow’ mean?
Whether you’re office-bound, work in landscape gardening, a stay-at-home mum or like to play sports at the weekend, functional training involves exercises designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities that you might do at work, at home, or in your chosen sport.
As an example, an ordinary squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles needed to rise up and down, perhaps from a chair or to pick something up from the floor. So too, multidirectional lunges help prepare your body for common activities, such as vacuuming and gardening.
It might not sound sexy against such basic context but in my experience, it’s a whole new world of learning novel skills, holistic fitness, and inclusion into an incredible community. Functional exercises tend to incorporate multiple joints and muscles. Instead of moving only the elbows to do a biceps curl, for example, a functional exercise might involve the elbows as well as the shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles.
This has been a game-changer for me as someone who used to swim, ride, and run all the time. Think about those exercises — every movement is about forward motion, nothing backward or up and down, or side to side. The result has been a series of imbalances and, therefore, weaknesses.
Take it from me, this type of “real-world” training when properly applied can make you stronger both physically and mentally, improve your mobility and make everyday activities easier while greatly reducing your risk of injury, massively improving your quality of life and staying independent for as long as possible.
That’s quite a return on your exercise investment.
Perfect for the Everyday Athlete, wouldn’t you say?
And it’s entirely relevant for older adults. As countries like Australia watch its ageing population confront its associated challenges, functional fitness training can be used to improve balance, agility and muscle strength, while simultaneously reducing the risk of falls. So you may want to get nana involved too!
As you can tell, I’ve become a huge advocate for functional fitness training. I see it employed to help people recovering from injury, or who are new to the gym, or who appreciate training in a group environment, even for professional athletes looking to gain a competitive edge as well as anyone looking to be welcomed into a community.
Implemented properly, functional fitness will meet you where you’re at. By that I mean it’s designed to be accessible for you and everyone else on the planet. You don’t need to be the fittest or fastest. You don’t need to be able to lift big weights or perform a gambit of gymnastic moves. You just need to turn up and get involved. With proper education or guidance, every movement can be adapted to suit your own particular needs.
But is functional training just another fad fitness philosophy?
No. In fact, we can once again turn to our old friend Hippocrates. Unlike the incredible feats of strength exhibited by warrior heroes in the ancient Greek Olympics, it is reported that Hippocrates would ask patients to toss balls to one another to relieve pain and illnesses. This was a type of functional training for the everyday citizens of 4th Century BCE Greece. And now you know where the term “medicine ball’ comes from. I know, that’s one of life’s little aha moments. You’re welcome.
So, now we’ve established that functional training is ideal for the Everyday Athlete as it is an elite athlete, where can you get involved?
Yet another of the benefits of functional training is that you can do it practically anywhere. Whether you’re at home, office-bound, travel frequently for work or on holiday — no problem. You can get a great workout quickly with little or no equipment.
There are also plenty of gyms waking up to the ‘training for tomorrow’ phenomena, too. Brands like the U.S.’s CrossFit and Australia’s F45 have been taking the fitness world by storm in recent years. But there’s also a growing number of independent, boutique gyms building amazing communities of Everyday Athletes around the world.
So where to start?
Adopting functional training as I have does not make me an authority of its philosophy. On that basis, I spoke at length to Will “Coach” Henke who is someone I feel privileged to call my friend but who is also the head of programming for all events and programs under the umbrella of The Bay Games.
Will has a wealth of experience and knowledge across a range of training philosophies and, I believe, is someone who brings a huge dose of wisdom to our exploration of functional fitness training.
He explained that to succeed with functional training, you must build a solid relationship between strength, cardiovascular, mobility, mindset, and lifestyle habits such as sleep and nutrition. Incorporating different facets of these things together in a progressive way allows you to have measurable outcomes depending on where you focus. This pays homage to all of us with varying focus points throughout our training lives.
And when we think about stages of life, the relationship or ratio of how we train these different elements should also change. As an example, as you get older, you’ll need more strength training to combat the natural physiological changes that occur such as muscle atrophy (reduction is size). Given the desire to remain happy, healthy, and independent for as long as possible, targeting these natural physiological realities through deliberate training just makes sense.
We each have a responsibility to manage our lives and wellbeing. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, our colleagues and to society at large.
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