Functional Fit: The life-changing benefits and how to get it right

by Gavin Yu – Director of Functional Fit

We’ve all heard about the incredible benefits of regular exercise. From improving our mood and sleep to helping us look our best, fight disease and live longer, there really is no doubt exercise can transform our lives.But when work gets overwhelming, our social calendar fills up or kids take up more and more time, it’s easy for regular exercise to go out the window.

Before long, we’ve packed on the pounds. We’re out of breath after only a few flights of stairs or a quick run around with the kids. We stop playing the team sports we used to love. And we develop niggling aches and pains that leave us feeling 10 years older than we are.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

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I hear complaints like this from new clients all the time. They come to me because they’re sick of feeling lousy all the time and are ready to make a change.

The good news: by introducing the right kinds of exercises into their lives for just a few hours a week, my clients can feel confident, energetic and pain-free.

Here’s how you can too.

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Focus on the body’s natural movement patterns

These are the seven movements you rely on to get things done each day – gait (walking and running), squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull and carry.

These are often performed incorrectly during traditional gym workouts. But developing strong functional movement patterns is the best way to build strength and muscle tone, prevent injuries and protect your long-term orthopaedic health. And if you sit hunched over a desk for hours a day, chances are you’ve already compromised some of these functional movements.

The key here is taking into account your body type, skill level and any past or present injuries. A qualified personal trainer can assess your movement patterns and create a personalised fitness program that will help you develop, load and master them, so you get the most out of your workout.

Build muscle and bone density

Building strong muscles and bones can protect you from diabetes, osteoporosis and other serious diseases. It can also help you burn more fat and avoid injuries during training and day-to-day life, improve balance and coordination and make everyday tasks such as carrying the kids and playing sports more enjoyable.

Focus on the practical and health benefits of building strength, rather than aesthetic benefits such as building muscles or losing weight. These physical changes will come naturally with a healthy body once you’re committed to the program.

The most effective way to strengthen and condition muscles is through weight-bearing resistance training using a combination of body weight, free weights and machine-based exercises.

Work on mobility and flexibility

Mobility (how a joint moves) and flexibility (the length of a muscle) are often neglected during training. But both are vital to our overall health, helping reduce those aches and pains and strengthening vascular health. Optimal mobility and flexibility will also help you achieve other fitness goals.

It’s important to assess your mobility and flexibility at the start of your fitness journey. Hips, shoulders, knees and the upper back are common areas of tightness. You can loosen these via a combination of stretches, foam rollers and mobility drills. Some people are mobile and flexible but lack strength, which can cause issues with ligaments and tendons. If this is the case for you, focus on strengthening and conditioning the muscles so you can move with more control.

Eat well

Having a well-planned nutrition plan goes hand in hand with any successful fitness program. Start reducing processed foods and introduce more whole foods, including plenty of green leafy veggies, fruits (such as berries and stone fruits), beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Foods such as chicken, salmon, tuna and eggs are an awesome source of Protein. Limit your sugar intake. And don’t be scared of fat, especially the good fats found in olive oil, nuts, oily fish and avocados.

The five pillars of success

1. Be committed: Success will only happen when you’re ready to make the change and willing to put in the hard yards.

2. Set realistic goals: Write down weekly, mid-term and long-term goals you’re confident you can achieve.

3. Consistency is key: Figure out when and for how long you can work out each week and stick to it.

4. Have fun: Choose exercises you enjoy and get your friends and family involved in the process.

5. Get expert support: Find a personal trainer who can develop a personalised exercise and nutritional program for you. They’ll motivate and inspire you to achieve all your health and fitness goals and keep you accountable along the way.

Written by Gavin Yu – Director of Functional Fit.

Functional Fit is a personal training studio in Fitzroy. It offers personalised physical assessment, nutrition design and personal and group coaching to help clients optimise their health, fitness and wellbeing.

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