Training for the sport of life: 5 tips for improving your functional fitness {Guest Post}

Functional Fitness

It’s Thanksgiving week (YIKES!). I have some great guest bloggers lined up for this week. Seriously, I love all three posts that are set to go up this week. Today, I’m excited to feature Tamara from fitknitchick.com today. Tamara is a fellow Fitfluential Ambassador and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at Fitbloggin’ this year. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve met and has a level of energy that I envy. 

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Some days, it seems like everyone I know is training for an extreme sport or endurance event. Tough mudders. 10 K’s. Half and full marathons. Triathlons. Ironman. The Tour de France (or at least a mini, local version of the 23-day race).

While I applaud the desire and dedication necessary to attempt and complete any of the above events, the sheer volume of training required in a single training domain often means that cross-training gets forgotten or pushed to the back of the priority list. I mean, who has time to fit in a couple of weight room sessions and yoga classes when you’re two weeks away from running a full marathon?

Sport-specific training, however, often results in bodies that are:

(1) more prone to injury (due to repetitive movement patterns)
(2) muscularly imbalanced,
(3) lacking in flexibility and
(4) even compromised in their ability to carrying out the activities of day to day living.

Despite all of their conditioning, many endurance athletes are poorly trained for the sport of life. They are less than functionally fit.

Because of the continuous forward nature of most endurance sports, runners, cyclists and swimmers often present with tight anterior muscles (chest, front of the shoulders, hip flexors) and weak, overstretched posterior muscles (back of the shoulders, lower back, hamstrings).

Coincidentally, the same muscular imbalances are typical of people whose only form of exercise is driving their car or clicking their mouse ;)

We can all improve our functional fitness by following these 5 tips. 

1. Strengthen your posterior chain
When you head to the weight room, focus on working the muscles that you CAN’T see in the mirror; hamstrings, glutes, lower back and posterior deltoid. These are the muscles that will pull your body up and back, thereby improving your posture and reducing back pain. You should be able to ‘pull’ as much weight as you can ‘push’. Aim for two ‘back body’ exercises for every one ‘front body’ exercise you perform.

Posterior Chain Strengthening

2. Stretch your hip flexors
Counteract the effects of continuously contracting hip flexors by stretching them daily. Try a kneeling runner’s stretch or a supine quadricep stretch, holding each pose for a minimum of 30 s and just to the point of discomfort, never pain.

Hip flexor stretch

3. Practice chest expansion
Tight chest muscles pull shoulders forward and make it difficult to breath fully and from the diaphgram. Try lining up a foam roller or bolster along your spine as you lie on your back with arms extended out at shoulder level. Many of the breathing techniques taught in yoga class are also fantastic for expanding the chest and strengthening the intercostal muscles.

4. Move in more than just one plane
Running, climbing, swimming and cycling are all primarily frontal plane movements. Day to day living requires us to be equally competent at side to side and cross body movements. Simple boot camp drills like speed skaters, lateral shuffles and side-to-side hopping over a low step are great ways to improve your agility and hence, reduce your risk of tripping or falling. 

5. Strengthen your core
Your core is the foundation of all movement. It’s primary job is to stabilize your spine in both the presence and absence of movement. Start with static stabilization exercises (planks, side planks, weighted anti-rotation holds), then progress through dynamic stabilization (plank rows, ball roll outs) to core integrated strength training (squats, single leg dead lifts, cable and pulley woodchoppers). Forget the crunches; there are very few activities in day to day life that require your body to move in this way!

Plank for core strength

By training for the sport of life, you’ll not only be building a fitter, healthier body, you’ll also be setting the foundation for many more years of movement and activity.

Do you incorporate functional fitness in your endurance sport training?

What are your favorite functional training moves?

 

Tamara Grand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tamara Grand lives in beautiful British Columbia Canada with her husband, three children, a ginger cat and a large stash of hand-dyed yarn. She works as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor and enjoys pushing her clients and class participants out of their comfort zones. She’s happiest when they text her the day after a workout complaining about sore arms and legs. She believes that exercise and healthy eating need to be part of everyone’s life and aims to inspire and motivate others by showing them that if she can do it, anyone can. She blogs about fitness, food, family and fiber (knitting fiber, that is) at fitknitchick.com and is always thrilled when you comment on her posts. Please follow her on Twitter @fitknitchick_1.

 

Comments

  1. says

    I ADORE ME SOME TAMARA and am cheering from my desk :-)
    these days 100% of my training is functional fitness in focus.
    Im all about the ability to toss my luggage in the OVERHEAD BINS straight into my 80s :0)
    Miz recently posted..My tattoo stories.My Profile

  2. says

    Great tips from Tamara! As a fitness professional I know this. But I have a nasty habit of letting functional fitness slide when I’m training for a race. Very bad! I’m putting together a new plan for my next race that will be full of function!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..Lesson LearnedMy Profile

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