I just completed an ACE continuing education course on functional training. I thought I would share a few things about what it means to be “functional” in your workouts.
In general, it is not just about working the core and being able to do lunges. A big part of what needs to be integrated into your workout and your body in order to be functional, is an awareness of the relationship of all parts of the body to one another. The affects of the relationships during regular activity, as well as during workouts, create your body’s daily movement habits and can result in you either being free from pain, or experiencing some discomfort in your body.
For example, if you have the tendency to turn one foot out, this results in a change in alignment all the way up to your ear. It can make a difference on the other side of your body too, not just the side that you turn out on. So if you have any tightness, pain, or discomfort in your body, start with thinking about your gait, your feet, how you walk, run, and then how this effects your workout. Even if you don’t have any “issues” right now, but you have had injuries in the past or want to remain injury free, take some time for a postural assessment and have someone evaluate how you stand, stand on one leg, squat, and walk. You can also just look at yourself in the mirror, notice things and see if there is any relationship to the alignment of your body and the results of your workouts. It’s always a good idea to keep the foundational points of your activities in check before you move on to any exercise or movement that is more advance or challenging. This means assessing your alignment when you start your workouts and remember to keep your alignment throughout.