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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.