ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Functional Fitness – Part II
Critical Concept: A Constantly Varied Approach
Variety is the spice of life – and of true fitness. The key to extraordinary fitness is diversity. In order to achieve optimal health, one must achieve optimal fitness. In other words, to move toward greater health, you must move toward increased fitness.
Fitness is defined by Crossfit Founder Greg Glassman as having optimal physical competence in all ten physical skills (cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, flexibility, strength, power, speed, coordination, balance, agility and accuracy). If you desire to become healthier, you must desire to become more fit. These ten “Pillars of Fitness” should be considered a virtual “wish-list” that outlines your approach to exercise and activity.
Most people today train or exercise with a very narrow approach to fitness. They do one thing (like running, rowing, yoga, biking, etc.) and do it repeatedly for years. There are fantastic benefits to be gained from each of these individually, but on their own will not produce a well-rounded, truly fit person. These activities produce “specialized athletes” with a limited scope of fitness. It is not hard to expose a marathon runner’s weaknesses: simply ask them to demonstrate a strength maneuver, challenge their flexibility, or simply jump for height. Similarly, ask most power lifters to run down the street. It is easy to expose the limitations created by specialized training.
If your goal is optimal fitness, you must vary your training constantly. You must expose yourself to a wide variety of challenges and activities. You should regularly recruit constant low-grade activities (such as walking), periodic high intensity activities (full exertion), pick up heavy things occasionally, and get plenty of rest in between. Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, has it right: “Move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things and sprint once in a while.”
So where do you start? Start where you are. If you are not exercising at all, anything that you add today will simply move you towards greater health. Out of everyone, you stand to gain the most. According to a Harvard study, the greatest gains in health and fitness are achieved in the population that goes from zero exercise to 3 times per week. So get to it.
For those that consider themselves “super-fit,” audit your fitness levels and methods against the 10 Pillars of Fitness; find your weaknesses or over-sights and have at it. You will never achieve your fitness potential if you do not expand your definition of fit.
For everyone else in between, do what moves you. Get creative. Find new ways to exercise or add activity. Break through old boundaries, get out of your rut, and get into a groove. A vital behavior is to train a different way every time – never repeat a workout. Your body thrives when it has to adapt to a variety of stressors. Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, tone your body, or increase your energy, you will find that your results will accelerate under a wider variety of challenges.
Train movements, not muscles. Train for health. Train for life.
- Add activity every day in every way
- Calculate Energy Balance
- Add Functional Training
- Add variety and activity patterns to your exercise