The functional fitness revolution

James Flynn / Jan 9, 2016

​Why you should ditch the gym in 2016 and reconnect with functional fitness

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When I signed my name on the dotted line to my first gym membership in the mid 2000’s I was surprised by the lack of variety on offer. Gyms then were almost always separated into the weight room and the cardio-machine room. Confined to the weight room were the wannabe and certified bodybuilders, inspired by the pin up Mr. Olympia physique of Arnie and driven by a desire to pack on muscle and get bigger. In the adjoining room were the cardio addicts, spotted among rows of treadmills with earphones in, rhythmically pounding away. In the buffer zone between the rooms you might find a neglected  ‘warm up’ area, a matted space with it’s hodgepodge of skipping ropes, medicine balls and foam float sticks propped in a corner.

In more recent years things have started to change. Yoga, CrossFit and many other group classes have moved from new-age niche to part of the fitness mainstream. The variety of workout options available at gyms today only speaks to how narrow our views of fitness had until recently become.  As you look to get in shape in 2016 here’s why you avoid falling back to the old familiar ways of working out and join ‘the functional fitness revolution’.

Movement is medicine, but not all movement is created equal 

You may feel that a new gym membership and rededication to hitting the weights or the treadmill this New Year will provide your antidote to long winter work hours slumped over a desk. But like a mouse in a wheel we repeat the same movements over and over in our daily lives, and the same is often true for our workouts.

In all aspects of life we have become conditioned to move less, and spend excessive time sat or slouched in unnatural positions, cradled by chairs, seats and sofas. This lack of natural movement affects everything from our mobility to hormone balance and leads to stresses in the body that predispose us to inflammation, and early onset degenerative conditions including osteoporosis and sarcopenia, adding up to a generally poorer quality of life as we age.

Working out is undoubtedly very good for us, but it’s important to be aware of how we should work out. Gyms are still filled with machine equipment. While this is beneficial to bodybuilders, for the majority of us who sit too much a trip to the gym to sit on machines that are designed to work specific muscles in isolation is counter productive. We should be mindful that our bodies are designed to move as one complete unit, and will respond best to workouts that incorporate full body movements that develop the pillars of good health: core strength, stability, flexibility, co ordination and balance.

Now is the perfect time to be a beginner

As the ‘New Year, new me’ time rolls around and gym managers are jumping with joy at the latest mass re-enrollment – consider some alternative actions for 2016. Here are a few things you could try: yoga, gymnastics, joining a running club, military fitness, kettle bell classes, swimming, indoor rock climbing, dancing, martial arts, CrossFit, dodge ball, tennis, slack lining. With the new-year approaching a whole range of clubs and programs will be offering taster beginner sessions and intro discount offers. We are only limited by our imagination and our bodies respond in incredible ways to new stimuli. What have you got to lose!