Thursday, February 7, 2013

Real Functional Training

There has been a lot of crap written about "functional" training.  I've probably written some of that crap myself over the years.  (I've been getting struck repeatedly recently by how little I know, how far I am from being any sort of expert).

I was thinking about the whole concept this last weekend as I was visiting my mum.  Forget balancing on a Bosu ball or single leg deadlifts...I saw what was important.  She is 77 and has now got rid of the bath for a walk in shower because she was no longer able to get in and out of the bath.  She walks... but it is getting harder.  Standing up from the floor?  I don't know if she could.

That is the sort of function that we need.  Sufficient strength and appropriate skill to survive independently, to live independently.  All of the endless debates and arguments about training methods frustrate me. Just get stronger and do it safely.  Take the long view.  Is what you are doing something that you can keep doing for the next 40 or 50 years and will it give you the strength and skills to be independent when you are 70, 75, 80 or more?

And the bigger context of course is death. No matter how functional you are death is coming; strength will help make your life more fun and easier but it is not the whole story.  Strength will let you function, but what are you doing with those years?


ProudDaddy said...

Exactly! I'm 72 with a baby coming next May. More blogs pointed toward elderly fitness would be much appreciated. BTW, I've been working out for two years and can leg press thrice my weight, and I'd like to be able to do it when I'm 92!

Steve Parker, M.D. said...

All our life we're in a battle with gravity. Gravity eventually wins.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Functional, sustainable, livable, and unobtrusive is the direction I am going, too. I've seen the decline in my own parents' functionality (they are a little older than your mother) and the ability to do daily things around the house. The solution seems so easy - use it or lose it. Period. Walk so you can keep walking, get up off the floor so you can keep getting up off the floor, carry/move heavy things so you can always do so. I know there will be some decline with age, but there need not be such limits as we typically see and associate with aging.

I think in addition to functional fitness, we (or at least I) need to simply find just how much (or little) food is needed to maintain a good weight, and then eat foods we enjoy within that amount. Other ways of restriction just seem doomed to repeated failures, and none are proven effective for long-term health or weighloss. I am pretty much there with just eating a variety of foods at dinner, and during the day I am just not that hungry, so I sip coffee/tea, and maybe have some nuts at some point. Saves $ too. :-)

It is what you have been saying for a while now: do the basics, the very simple basics of movement and wise eating. That's all. That is simply all.

Your measures of sustainability rock: can I do this long-term, as in years, not just put up with it for a few months. That will be the yardstick by which I measure anything I try to do health-wise in the future.

Please keep posting these thought-provoking essays. I really do appreciate them, as they make me consider how I really want to live my life.

All the best.


Doug E said...

Really enjoyed this too Chris! I truly appreciate your blog and look forward to it!


Sifter said...

I also enjoyed this, but I think the concept can be expanded. A 'simple' movement like a Goblet squat, if practiced with frequency, why can't it be practiced into old age? it is simpler than a barbell squat or deadlift, builds legs strength and core stability, which are things we are looking for, are we not? Within reasonable limits perhaps a one handed kettlebell press ( and no, I'm not pushing the KB theme, just find them compact and useful myself) overhead for upper body. One modest fixed weight implement, two movements that get most the musculature.

I think it was Nate Morrison who used to have a militaryfitness site years ago. They had a simple exercise of getting up off the floor and back down trying not to use your hands for any of it. I'd think that simple yet basic movement pattern would be useful for aging gracefully, daily, as well.