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Functional Training For Life (and other adventures)

February 27th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune

Over the New Year holiday, I decided to learn a new sport and I took skiing lessons. After three hours of careful instruction, I was sent out on the slopes alone and tentative. The Bunny Slope was full of beginners. Just when I really thought I was getting the hang of it, an out of control snowboarder ploughed into me from behind. My arms and legs went everywhere, scenery spun and I squealed loudly. When I finally gained control of the situation, I was amazed to find myself still upright and facing the same direction. I could feel my stomach muscles, my glutes, my lower back and my hamstrings all buzzing with over-use and I realized that I had just controlled my tailspin by using my stability muscles developed in my workouts. Completely and utterly inadvertently.

After relaying my story to a few clients the next week (they love to hear about my physical ineptitudes), I found that a couple of them had had similar occurrences over the same weekend. Jan, (54), and I have trained together since January 2005 and she had a mishap right outside of my gym: “I slipped and kept slipping but never went down, thank God. I really attribute it to being stronger from working out.” Another client, Tania started working out with me in 2003 and one of her goals was to increase her stability. She had noticed that she was stumbling often and generally feeling unsteady on her feet. This time, she slipped on ice while on an walk with her husband:: “What was remarkable was that I actually gained control of my body while I was still standing on the ice! I really felt it in my abs, my muscles reacted before I had to think about it” she said.

All of these happy endings are attributed in part to exercising using a training method known as Functional Training. This technique consists of a series of exercises which mimic everyday body movements often involving movement through various planes of motion and an external force (free weight, medicine ball, etc.) By involving the core section of the body, Functional Training can also help improve balance, stability and posture. The basic theory of Functional Training is by improving the brain to muscle communication (neuromuscular facilitation), our muscles are able to react faster when we need them. When Jan and Tania slipped suddenly, their body took over for them before they could think to react because the muscles had a “memory” of stabilizing them.

A Functional Training program can be developed for people of all fitness abilities and goals. For example, someone who has small children would benefit from a workout that includes squats with over head raises. A program for a basketball player might include jump squats, bending and reaching holding a medicine ball. For a client who’s goal is to improve balance and mobility, they might benefit from stepping up and down on a Core Board (wobble board) or from performing upper body exercises while standing on one foot.

Next time you are exercising, try and incorporate exercises that pertain to your everyday life. It will give your training more focus and purpose.

by Lynda Linforth

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