Functional Fitness. What is it? Why is it Important?

The last time I was trying to hire a new awesome coach to join my team, one of my interview questions was “what does functional fitness mean to you, and why do you think it is important?” Unfortunately, I was blown away to learn that most of the qualified and experienced fitness professionals I interviewed didn’t even know what functional fitness is.

Functional fitness means training your body in natural movement patterns that your body is very likely to do in life.

Great examples are squats (because we sit down and stand up over and over all day), burpees (because we lie down and stand up on the regular), deadlifts (because we pick things up all the time), lunges, running, sit ups… the list goes on. For the purpose of this article, I will be primarily focused on the squat as our example, but you can tell the same story about any functional movement.

Why are these movements important? They are a natural part of your activities of daily life.

Learning to move correctly and getting stronger at these movement patterns will help you prevent injury, perform better at sports, help you live independently for longer into your life.

What’s really interesting is watching a toddler or preschooler move; they often move with great ease squatting, crawling, rolling etc… it’s really neat to watch!  As they start to become more sedentary often these movement patterns start to deteriorate.  Bringing it back to squatting – by the time they’ve finished university, most have lost the ability to squat correctly. Unfortunately, this is very likely to lead to back pain and injury, knee pain and injury… Of course, pain is likely going to get in the way of sports and activities that keep us active and this is a recipe for a huge decline in health/fitness.

The solution of course is to relearn to squat correctly. (Ask my clients – I am obsessed with perfecting squats.) The results of learning to move correctly (and doing it all the time, not just in the gym) will be that daily activities become easier, you have a greater likelihood of taking part in recreational and fitness activities, which can have a number of benefits such as decreased pain, more energy and body composition changes.

So what do YOU want to be better at squatting?

Well it’s going to be different for everyone!  For an athlete, a good squat will help build strength and balance across the board. For a runner, it will help to balance the muscles in the legs and hips (and help them run faster). In a mother with young children, it will help her more easily get up and down and manage stairs while carrying one (let’s be honest, sometimes two) children. In a senior citizen, it will help with living more independently for longer. If you can’t sit down and stand up without help you will need help for the simplest things including going to the bathroom! In all people, it will help prevent wear-and-tear on joints created by bad movement patterns and help to prevent injuries.

Now the tricky part is that if you haven’t been moving right for the last 30, 40, 50+ years, it can be challenging to reprogram a movement pattern. In the first few weeks of trying to learn these things, little injuries might expose themselves. If a healthy movement pattern causes pain, the answer is not to put it on the never-do list. The answer is to figure out why and fix it.

While I have taken so many certifications and courses over the years I like to enlist the help of amazing specialists to help remove fascial restrictions and figure out all the whys. I work hand-in-hand with an amazing crew to help my clients get to the other side of movement restrictions and learn how to function better. 

I have walked this path (and it is a hard thing to work to the other side of injuries and restrictions) with so many clients over the years. My most favourite thing is when I get messages from my clients about how they were able to do something they didn’t think they could do. Like my wonderful client Judy who, in her 60s, is a super active grandma to her amazing and giant grandkids who needs to be lifted. She lives alone and proudly puts her tires away without having to ask her son-in-law to help. She also cycled 150km in one weekend last summer and was so happy and proud!

Or my awesome client Kristin who is a crazy fast long-distance runner who came to me because she was experiencing knee pain and knew that to continue running long-term she needed some help. 

My clients Ari and Joanne (17 years we’ve been together) sent me pictures of themselves rock climbing, hiking Machu Pichu and some other awesome physically demanding adventures. They felt that all their training (and the style of training we do) is why they were able to do these things. They are fitter and faster in their mid-40s than they were in their 30s!

The moral of the story is that functional training should be a part of everyone’s program PERIOD.

 Book a Free Call with me to discuss how Love Your Body Fitness can get you feeling your best today and for the rest of your life.