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Master functional fitness

Boost your well-being by simply improving your workout moves.

When you are looking for a workout that improves coordination, boosts balance, increases muscle strength, raises your endurance, and makes everyday tasks easier, functional fitness is your answer. We know what you might think: Functional fitness sounds technical and, frankly, like the opposite of fun. However, functional fitness is simply well-tailored strength training that involves multiple muscle groups and enhances your ability to get things done, like hauling a heavy backpack across campus, lifting your kids in and out of their car seats, or weeding the garden.

It’s like training for life. You teach your muscles to work together. Doing 50 sit-ups? Great for your waistline, but they won’t really make it easier to rearrange the living room furniture. Doing a squat while raising a kettlebell, on the other hand, trains the muscles you use to bend down, pick up and move the couch.

Spend more time on functional fitness and you will find out that your balance improves, your core becomes stronger, you are more flexible, and you have less aches and pains.

Ready to master functional fitness? Let’s get started.

Consider your daily routines
Think about everything you need to tackle in a day. Are you getting in and out of a car frequently? Does your job involve a lot of lifting or reaching? Or are you focused on smaller, repetitive motions? Knowing how you need to use your body will help you find the best functional exercises for you.

Talk to a pro
You don’t need a personal coach or a pricey series of one-on-one sessions, but it is a good idea to track down a certified personal trainer. Because functional fitness exercises involve moving more than one muscle or joint, there’s more coordination involved, and good form is important. Get instruction so you make sure you’re doing it right and don’t injure yourself. Most gyms and community fitness centres have trained staff on site who can help you map out a few basic moves to suit your goals. Or follow our three-week Mindful Functional Fitness Challenge.

Line up some basic equipment
Functional fitness is tailored strength training. While your own body weight is enough for most functional exercises, you might want to pick up a few hand weights, kettlebells, fitness balls, resistance bands, and wobble boards to challenge yourself.

Learn how to decode a gym’s fitness class menu
Although functional fitness is a top 10 fitness trend, you will not easily find the words ‘functional fitness’ in the calendar of your gym. Look for classes described as building muscle fitness (strength, muscular endurance, and power), flexibility, balance, or a head-to-toe workout. Tai chi, yoga, and barre classes are all great examples. Generally speaking, spinning classes, classes that target specific body parts, and classes that involve high-energy dance choreography, don’t count. (That doesn’t mean stop taking those classes if you enjoy them!) When in doubt, ask the instructor.

Give it a try
You can try out functional fitness exercises right now. For someone carrying a heavy backpack or lifting a toddler out of a car seat, for example, a bent over row will strengthen all of the muscles involved in those movements. Hold a weight in one hand, lean over a bench or chair with arm at your side. Pull the weight up, pointing elbow to the ceiling and keeping upper arm parallel to the ground.

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