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Inner Evolution Training Functional Training

Functional training for a better life

Functional Training

Imagine hiking through the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Looking over the Denver skyline while being able to finally take a deep breath and de-stress from your arduous workweek. Realizing that everything you have done in your life has led you to this peaceful moment — all the good times and the bad. Enjoying these little moments in life is what drives me to keep going and evolve. Finding those moments that you love — those moments that make all the heartache worthwhile. Without those moments, you can lose your luster for life, burnout faster, be unable to handle those daily struggles, and forget about the beauty the world has to offer.

Your favorite moments might be adventuring with loved ones; playing with your children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren; challenging yourself on a paddleboard; running around the neighborhood; or maybe keeping up with your friends.

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Enjoying these moments more often and more easily keeps me working out. I want to find ways to have fun and enjoy life until the moment I die, which I hope is well past 100 years old. Being active in your daily life and throwing in challenging functional workouts are essential so you’re able to do those tasks that make you feel alive. Workouts that mimic real-world activities and utilize your body the way it’s designed improve heart health, help cellular function, and test your muscles in a safe environment.

If you don’t want to do or don’t enjoy physically demanding activities in your life but you get deep joy from work, conversations, or everyday accomplishments, exercise can still help with that. It improves productivity; clears the mind; increases daily energy; and, probably most importantly, reduces stress.

Functional workouts are starting to become a more prevalent form of exercise rather than bodybuilding (Arnold-Schwarzenegger-style) workouts. Functional training movements mimic everyday life activities, such as walking upstairs or carrying groceries. If you want to be less winded walking around, feel stronger moving furniture, or have better posture, functional training is a great fit. Functional exercises also scale fantastically to more demanding everyday activities. Functional workouts:

  • Transfer to real-world activities more effectively
  • Reduce injuries by rebalancing muscles and improving body alignment
  • Are fun and versatile

Mike Boyle is a world-renowned strength and conditioning coach who uses a functional training approach. He has great success with it; he’s worked with many professional teams and athletes, including the USA women’s hockey and soccer teams, the Boston Bruins, the Boston Red Sox, and former MLB star Nomar Garciaparra.

As a personal trainer located in Denver, I meet a gamut of people who are active in various ways. In my experience, functional exercises fit virtually all types of outdoor fun. Hiking 14ers is obviously made easier with training, although if you want to get the best bang for your buck you need to mimic the same walking demands of walking at a steep incline. So why not try that in the gym? Get more strength and endurance with weighted step-ups, a favorite functional exercise of mine.

Functional training isn’t the magic bullet of fitness, and it isn’t a fit for some. Functional training won’t get you the biggest muscles or give you the ability to lift 800 pounds. Don’t get me wrong; it will make you a better version of yourself, but just not in those categories. However, it has helped world-class athletes, military elites, and obstacle course racers, and it is also the preferred method of training.

Here are some functional exercises you can try out, which include in-gym and outdoor variations.

Weighted step-ups

A great exercise to do to help with challenging hikes.

Gym: With a weight in each hand, step up onto an exercise bench or other stationary, level object with one leg. Step back down with the same leg, then switch to the other leg. Make sure to keep your torso upright, and don’t lean too far forward.

Outdoors: Find a set of stairs, a steep hill, or a tree stump to step up onto. For the weights, a backpack should work just fine.

Push-ups

Hopefully you all know what a push-up is. It is actually one of the best exercises, and it just so happens to be functional.

Gym: Start with your whole body on the ground and your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. While keeping your whole body rigid, push your body up, pause for a second, lower yourself down until your elbows are 90 degrees, and then push back up again. If you’re unable to perform from the ground, place your hands on a bench to incline your body and make it easier to keep your body rigid. Don’t give in to the temptation to do push-ups from your knees as you’ll lose the benefits that push-ups have for your whole body.

Outdoors: Find a nice grassy area free of dog poop. Proceed to do push-ups in the great outdoors.

Farmer’s carry

One reason most farmers are tougher than nails.

Gym: Pick up a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Have your arms straight down by your sides, and walk for a good distance while keeping your upper body tall and your midsection tight. The weight should be challenging to hold in your hands but not too heavy that you lose good posture.

Outdoors: Go find a farmer to help. Maybe try carrying two kids in each hand while walking through the park. Be creative, and enjoy the benefits.

Winter Blues are gone

Beat the Winter Blues

Beating the Winter Blues

‘Tis the season for holidays and cheer. For some, it’s the time for sadness due to the winter blues, seasonal depression, or (the medical term) seasonal affective disorder or SAD. This problem isn’t just brought on by the holidays; it’s primarily linked to the weather and how we react to it.

Have adequate levels of vitamin D.

Having adequate supplies of vitamin D in the body helps with brain function, bone health, a healthy immune system, muscle function, and so much more. Having low levels of vitamin D has been linked to depression. This vitamin, which we naturally get from the sun and some foods, tends to become deficient during the winter months when we stay warm indoors and rarely see the sun. Some great ways to increase vitamin D levels is to eat more fish, go outside when the sun is shining, or take supplements. I would recommend getting your vitamin D levels checked through a blood test. The “sweet spot” for vitamin D is serum levels between 40-60 ng/ml according to Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

Enjoy the sun when you can or supplement with a blue light.
Getting plenty of sunlight also helps with the production of serotonin not only because of the increase in vitamin D, but also because the light, practically the blue light, helps the brain build stronger connections. Stronger connections help the brain stay healthy. An unhealthy brain typically leads to depression. Blue light is also what helps wake us up in the morning and assists in producing melatonin at night to help give us a full night’s sleep. The winter blues can be banished by the getting enough blue light, a little ironic.

So get outside more, buy a full spectrum light for the office, or purchase a therapeutic blue light.

Get outside and be active during the day.
Just because it isn’t 80 degrees outside doesn’t mean you have to become sedentary and just stay inside. Try to keep doing the outdoor activities that you enjoy in the nice weather, or hit the slopes. If being active outdoors isn’t your thing and you’d rather stay warm inside, then working out is a great option. Physical activity has been very affective for treating depression and keeping your brain healthy.

Eat a lot of big hearty meals to fill you up.
Eat bigger heartier meals, such as stews or pot roasts. Bigger meals will help insulate us more for the cold. Also, the brain releases more serotonin throughout the day when we’re full and properly fueled. Although I typically advocate eating fewer carbohydrates, increasing them during the cold months is very beneficial to the mood.

At night, become nice and cozy.
Some of my favorite things about winter for me is being inside, having a fire roaring, a big mug of warm apple cider, being wrapped up in a blanket, and enjoying some time with friends. This creates a nice piece of mind and time to relax. The Norwegians call this koselig, meaning a sense of coziness. They practice koselig all the time and are consider experts on dealing with winter. So get tucked in with a big blanket and enjoy your time without the winter blues.

-Mark
Stay Evolved

Breathe

BREATHE!!!!

Breathe

One of the most important things for trainers to work on with anyone is proper breathing. Your breathing pattern can help change your mood, can stabilize your spine, regulate digestion, clear your mind, fight off illness, slow your heart rate, improve blood flow, and improve flexibility.

Everyone involuntarily breathes, but are you breathing correctly? In my experience, most people do not use one of the most important muscles in their bodies properly… the DIAPHRAGM. Although not as sexy as the biceps, pecs, or the 6-pack muscles, the not-so-sexy diaphragm is necessary for breathing and yet no one really uses it. In order to use your diaphragm, breathe deeply, and use your lungs to their fullest capacity. (Pun intended) By breathing properly, you will strengthen your diaphragm, and will be able to take in more oxygen everyday.

Use these tips to breathe a little better.

  1. Always breathe through your nose.

The nose is for breathing and the mouth is for eating. Even a lot of top-level athletes train themselves to breathe nasally during tough workouts that leave everyone huffing and puffing.

  1. Breathe from the bottom up

Imagine filling your lungs as if you are pouring water into a glass. Breathe the air into the bottom of your lungs and let it fill up to the top. Your belly should push out first followed by your chest. Don’t force it out; let yourself naturally push it out. This technique uses your diaphragm and your lungs to the fullest.

  1. Don’t let your shoulders raise up

When taking a deep breath most people, lift their shoulders up to their ears as if I asked them a really tough question, “I don’t know”? This almost forces the air to stay in the top half of the lungs so that you can’t fully take that deep breath.

  1. Breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold.

I personally breath in for a slow three seconds, hold for a second, then exhale through my nose for five or more seconds, and then finally pause for about a second. This is a great way to relax, change your mood, and clear your mind. If you focus on counting while breathing, it helps to be present.

  1. Practice deep breathing

Breathing deeply for a minute daily will help your overall breathing while you are not even thinking about it. It trains your subconscious to breathe nasally, deeper, and to use your diaphragm more. It also helps to use the diaphragm so it doesn’t stay stagnant and unused.

If you are having trouble with deep breathing, I recommend trying Crocodile Breathing. To practice crocodile breathing, lie down on your stomach with the back of your hands on your forehead, breathe in through your nose, and try to have your belly push into the floor through breathing deeply. Try this for three to five minutes to help you train your diaphragm more.

Hopefully this gives you a little more understanding of breathing and the importance of using it to your benefit. Proper breathing will help you to perform longer in activities, such as walking, going up the stairs, tough workouts, and help you feel better all-around.

Next week I will teach you how to walk better 😉

-Mark
Stay Evolved

The Mighty Plank with Analysis

The Plank and All Its Glory.

If you are looking for improved posture, a stronger core (every muscle from the bottom of the ribs to the pelvis), stronger butt, and want to get ripped in 15 days–maybe you should try an infomercial. If you want to get real, long term results, you can’t go wrong with the plank.

The plank’s main focus should be to improve posture and must be executed to accomplish this–through great form and awareness of our body. In the pictures above, my body is in a straight line as if I were standing up straight. You can achieve this at home by actively squeezing your glutes, abdominals, and making sure to keep your hips in line with the rest of your body. Also as to avoid injuring yourselves, keep your elbows under your shoulders and not let our upper body be hanging freely, so push through the floor and keep your chest in a good position.

Form Checklist:

• Elbows under your shoulders
• Actively squeezing your glutes
• Squeezing your abdominals
• Hips in line with body
• Pushing through the floor to keep your chest neutral
• Last, keep your entire spine straight


To begin with I will take a new client through an elevated plank and progress them through lower angles until they are able to reach the floor–doing this exercise for 20 seconds at a time. So I like doing high planks on a bench first, then lowering them until clients are comfortable performing a high plank on the floor. Then after the high plank has become too easy for them, we will progress to the regular plank. What I recommend for this exercise is to make sure you keep a solid form for the duration of the exercise. Never will a client of mine perform a plank from their knees, I’d rather they keep a straight line throughout the whole body so performing a plank is a skill transferable to daily living. I like to have my clients reach a maximum of 4 sets planks,  60 seconds each, with solid form; and if they lose form we stop the exercise and try again later. Once they are able to accomplish this maximum we advance to other core exercises.

If you have any questions or problems, ask them in the comment section. If you need more help you can contact me through e-mail.
-Mark