Fit 4 Life
There’s a difference between getting fit and staying fit. Just like theres a difference between getting in shape for an event/sport and claiming fitness as a way of life. One has a time limit and an ultimate goal, while the other is an adopted lifestyle.
Movement is key here. Functional movement to be specific. I know there are a lot of folks who work for companies that require manual labor, but unfortunately that doesn’t get you off the hook. Yes, lifting heavy objects through the day can make you stronger and may possibly have you working up a sweat in the outdoors during the summer, but it does not directly correlate with being in shape. This is typically because the intensity is low, the rest time is large, and the movements are limited and repetitive. Even if you’re a waitress working 10 hour shifts constantly moving back and forth on your feet, you will give your feet quite the pounding, but you won’t be doing much to get your heart rate up or improve upon your functionality.
If you don’t use it you will lose it. A classic cliche’ that holds major weight in this area. If you’re a former NBA player who hasn’t picked up a ball, touched a rim, or ran down a court in 2 years, I guarantee that your first day back on the hardwood won’t go as you probably had planned. Your body adapts to how you move on a regular basis. If you’re only walking and making very conservative movements on a daily, that is what your body will get used to doing. It’s easier to get away with it in your youth. The body is vibrant and elastic enough to do most of what you ask of it. But as you age your body slows down and begins to accommodate according to what you normally do. This makes playing with your children more difficult, making pick up ball a hassle, and it can even make going up the stairs a chore.
Functional movement is a combination of flexibility and strength. When I say flexibility I don’t mean you have to be able to do the splits, and when I say strength I’m not implying that you become a powerlifter. Functional movement is just simply referring to your ability to move, stretch, and act in different positions and execute multiple planes of motion. The more functionally sound you are the less likely you are to fall down the stairs, throw your back out bending over, or running out of breath while carrying you kids across the street.
Exercising in multiple planes of motion keeps the body limber and helps it to maintain the knowledge of how to fire all of your muscles correctly and in unison. So, this goes out to all of my lumber jacks, arborists, retail stockers, and furniture movers. When you’re lifting a lot of weight the same way everyday without purposely working on your antagonist muscles, then you are setting yourself up for a world of pain later on as your muscles in use will be overworked and over stressed. We typically see this problem pop up in the lower back area due to the repetitive heavy lifting with the back in labor intensive occupations.
As I stated earlier, functional movement involves flexibility, yet I do believe there is some confusion when it comes to functional movement exercise. People who are usually advocates for it tend to only focus on aerobic, plyometric and crossfit type of exercises. These type of exercises can range from moderate to high intensity and do force a level of stretching within the body during motion, but they do not relax the muscles. If you’ve ever done yoga, you might find that it too can leave you with a feeling of intensity, yet it will relax your muscle tissue. If yoga is a little too much for you though, static stretching will work as well. Whatever you can do to relax your muscles and create some flexibility, do it. Functional exercises will aid in the maintenance of your functional abilities and everyday movements, but we all still fall victim to our daily habitual movements while at work, at home, and even during our workouts.
Myofascial release is a favorite of mind when it comes to relaxing tight muscles, though it can be uncomfortable. It’s scientifically defined as an alternative medicine therapy that claims to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles. In other words you are applying pressure, typically with a foam roller or tennis ball, to your muscles with the intent to alleviate any adhesions (muscle knots) that may exist, which could limit your mobility and cause chronic pain. The reason why I like this method so much is because it doesn’t require you to have any level of flexibility in order to do it.
Whether you are an athlete, former athlete, or just a regular person, the idea is to keep your mobility and some level of athleticism for as long as you can. Nobody wants to be a 70 year old hunchback. Nobody wants to have to take a full ice bath after a pick up game of basketball or ultimate frisbee. Nobody wants to have to wear a back brace at work. No one wants to be addicted to pain relievers for the rest of their life. No body wants to struggle putting their socks on in the morning, and the funny thing is I know someone in their 20’s with that problem.
Functionality is the name of the game, and if you’re an athlete trust me when I say you want to keep those abilities for a lifetime. It’s almost like having super powers, the average person just can’t even fathom the thought of moving their body in such a fluent and poetic motion. And imagine, if you can dunk a basketball, or sprint 100 yards down a field, how much easier will the everyday tasks of life be?
Now, I don’t expect people to train like professional athletes, I’m just encouraging daily movement and occasional challenging of the body. In the video above, I explain how I like to train. I alternate so that I get a taste of everything, while at the same time protecting my body from wear and tear. The body can only handle so much punishment for so many years before injuries and chronic pains become unavoidable. Typically though, people have the other issue. They’re not doing enough movement in the first place.
I want to leave you with a list of effective and credible resources to check out. These individuals are some of the best in their field and I have adopted a lot of their methodology into my everyday practice.
Remember, build at your own pace. The fitness curve will be different for everybody, but everybody should be involved in it no matter what level or age you’re at. Good luck!
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Mel Jones the BEAST