Put Some Fun In Your Fitness

Are you stuck in a rut at the gym, doing the same exercises with the same weight on the same machine week after week? You’re at a plateau and probably a little frustrated and losing focus.{{more}} You find yourself looking around or thinking of all the chores and errands as you execute each repetition. You are on the road to burnout. Time to change it up and make it fun. Fun physical activity integrated into your lifestyle becomes your playtime, not another chore. It contributes to mental as well as physical wellbeing because the activity keeps you in the moment, aware of your body and anticipating its next movement.

Why go from machine to machine in a series of boring single joint isolation exercises that contribute little to your neuromuscular development or aerobic capacity, when you can combine it all together and have fun at the same time? Neuromuscular development is everyone’s concern, not just athletes. In daily life it is reaction time. When the car ahead of you stops suddenly, it is your quick reaction on the brakes that will keep you from colliding.

Functional training challenges the body’s motor reflexes to react as an integrated unit. It trains general, integrated movement patterns at a given intensity to reinforce the brain/muscle/energy system interaction. The whole body must both react and align in order to stay upright and in motion. Intentionally introducing progressive balance challenges and instability teaches a person to manage his/her body weight and to reestablish balance when thrown off center of gravity.

Stability and balance training are two components of functional training. Balance is the ability to stabilize and maintain a given posture, and is the basis of movement, which can be thought of as the harmonious interaction between the neurological system with the joints and muscles. A seemingly simple action like walking is a complex coordinated series of balance changes in the multiple planes of movement (frontal, sagittal, transverse) executed efficiently under the command of a well-developed path of the neuromuscular system. Muscles receive the signal to move from the nervous system. The sharper the neuromuscular connection, the more efficient, agile, and quicker the movement will be. This is the practice of functional training. Linking motion with stabilization provide useable results in the instabilities of daily life.

The BOSU balance trainer is an essential prop in functional training. This type of training is transferable to the physical requirements of daily life because people move in a three dimensional, dynamic and unpredictable world. A body that is strong and flexible and can move in an integrated, coordinated fashion can successfully accomplish daily tasks that include catching one’s balance after stumbling, reaching, bending, twisting, tracking an object or diverting one’s gaze while moving, as well as maintaining an ability to react to movement challenges in a variety of physical environments.

This type of training becomes essential as we age because quick movements can have catastrophic results. The consequences of a fall that results in a fractured or broken hip can be lethal. Older adults have an 80% risk of dying due to complications. A less serious but still damaging example is a spinal injury or muscle spasm incurred from a sudden twist, like quickly twisting and bending to retrieve something that fell to the floor.

Make fitness time playtime. Line up the BOSUs and leap frog down the line. Introduce a little instability in your daily routine. It’s your free time; make it fun so it counts.

Lesley is a health and fitness professional providing a balanced approach toward a healthy lifestyle. She can be reached at lmgiovanelli@gmail.com.