For over 17 years I’ve operated Functional Fitness, a small fitness and lifestyle consultant business in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Over this time there have been lots of questions as to what constitutes “functional fitness” or “functional training”. Nowadays this answer is a watered-down Google search away. “Functional specialists” are certified online and the notion of “functionality” seems to be (re)gaining mainstream popularity – in some arenas based soundly on knowledge and experience, while in others no more than a marketing buzz phrase. With this resurgence I feel that it may be an appropriate time to share the philosophies and mindset which embody the concept of functional fitness and serve as the cornerstones of my business.
The core of functional fitness.
Let’s start off with a quick definition of the phrase:
By these definitions “functional fitness” looks to address the development of health or physical condition which is able to be utilized for practical purposes, typically the “activities of daily life”. It aims to develop and improve the body’s capacity for “real life situations” – walking, bending climbing, pushing, pulling, lifting, running, jumping, twisting and turning.
In 1901, traditional strong man Adrian Schmidt wrote the following in his Illustrated Hints for Health and Strength for Busy People and pretty much nailed this notion of “functional fitness”.
This fundamental concept has been at the root of my training philosophy since we started in 2001… but it’s 2018 and there’s more to it.
Life doesn’t happen in sets and reps.
As we venture along this “pathway to functionality” restoring the body to a more “un-func’d” state and tackling improvement in our daily function, the “burdens” of day-to-day life can come to outweigh the maximum weight stack on any fitness machine – “but I thought ‘functional training’ didn’t use machines?”. Life happens and shit gets in the way! No matter how great our PB is (that’s our “personal best”), how amazing “the package” we brought to the stage was (not “that” package – the term to describe an aesthetically-oriented competitor’s overall stage presentation) or how well we can do bicep curls standing barefoot on a half-ball while chewing paleo gum, if we lack the ability to “roll with the punches”… we’re kind of screwed!
Over the years I’ve witnessed “physically fit” people (and unfortunately nowadays this seems to represent an aesthetic look rather than any actual functional capacity) crumble in the face of challenge. Conversely I’ve seen those that Facebook (the judge, jury and executioner for all things health and fitness-related you know) would classify as “unfit”, overcome the most daunting of tasks, physically, personally and professionally. If the Game of Life (real life, not the board game) frequently derails us and sends us into a tailspin, how truly “fit” are we? As a result I’ve come to revamp my definition of “fitness”, and subsequently “functional fitness” not only includes our physical capacity, but now more than ever it encapsulates the mindset that accompanies our physicality and impacts its true functional use outside of the gym, off the stage, and in our daily lives.
** There’s a whole other post coming on the condition of the “health and fitness industry” and trust me the verdict is not good **
Regardless of what you want to call it: resiliency, adaptability or a “life hack”, our fortitude to push forward as we fatigue or through tough times, our awareness to adapt and aptly scale our efforts, our ability to (re)prioritize and juggle the rigors of our lives in some perfect imbalance is what, by my definition, now comprises functional fitness. Our jobs, our friends, our family, our quiet time and yes, our physical ability are ALL important and necessary components of our dynamic and interactive human function which ALL need to be attended to and developed.
Functional Fitness version 2.0 – Are You Ready?
Over the last 17 years I’ve embraced change in the same way that I encourage my clients to. I’ve reconsidered and reformulated my philosophies, I’ve redefined my objectives and I’ve fine-tuned my processes. I’ve taken many of the concepts and principles used in traditional training and added a “real life” translation which looks to develop:
- a proficiency in overcoming challenges and obstacles;
- a realization of our individual “function(s)” and a directed approach to consistently making it a bit better;
- an acknowledgement of the need for change as a means of continued self-improvement;
- an honest awareness of our comfort zones and a desire to push our (self-imposed) physical limitations away from these;
- an appreciation for our adaptation to “norms” and the gradual progression away from them to bring about change in our lives.
We utilize these to not only facilitate a physical change but also as a means to develop a mindset and understanding, beyond the physical, which then becomes functional outside of a “workout”.
We are each the owners of wonderfully amazing bodies and possess the hardware for incredible functional capacity. At Functional Fitness the goal for each of our clients is to develop, manage and nurture the body, mind and spirit in a highly functional capacity. With our tagline, “Are You Ready?”, serving as a gut check for our preparedness for the future we strive to not only strengthen the body for the rigors of daily living but to develop a mindset which supports these endeavours.
Follow us on Instagram for thoughts that encourage the critical analysis that is required to identify and incorporate change.