aging · femalestrength · fit at mid-life · fitness

Get up! Get on up! Functional fitness to the rescue…

James Brown was a complicated person. But we would all do well to heed his advice here. Before reading the rest of my (tangentially related) blog post, please enjoy his masterpiece below.

While we’re here, let me point out that the unsung hero in this video is the woman dancing on the platform in the back. Could you move that well for that long in those go-go boots? I can say for myself: most definitely not. But I’d love to try…

Alas, heels like those and I don’t work and play well together. I’m just going to say it: I don’t move as well as I used to. For instance, getting up from my yoga mat on the floor has become steadily less graceful for me. I can’t go from hands and knees on the mat to a full upright position without using my hands. Bending over to make my way up, sometimes I feel a little bit like this:

Toddler, in down dog position, but stopped in mid-rise to catch up on reading.
Toddler, in down dog position, stopped in mid-rise to catch up on some reading.

Of course, toddlers are not so fussy about up, down, using hands, feet, whatever it takes to have fun and explore.

Toddler, resplendent in pink snowsuit, in deep squat, perfecting a tiny snowman.

I don’t think I can maintain a squat like that long enough to make a snowman. However, at the moment I’m more concerned about my general functional fitness. Yes, I can carry groceries, go up and down stairs, access things high and low in my house and elsewhere. I do yoga and walk and cycle and swim and sometimes paddle, but not as frequently or vigorously as I did a few years ago. I’m lucky and privileged to have the degree of function and autonomy and support and access to resources that I do. But like lots of people approaching 60 (less than 3 months from now for me!), I worry about this.

Enter functional fitness training. Yes, many of you are doing it right now, but late to the party is still at the party… I really like these sorts of exercises because they are arbitrarily customizable for many different bodies.

Note: to do the following exercises requires types of mobility, balance, etc. that many people don’t have access to, especially given constraints of equipment, space and training. I recognize that my post doesn’t include these members of our community. There are programs and plans that provide opportunities for people with wide ranges of abilities and disabilities to train for functional fitness (as well as engage in all levels of athletic training). I’m not (yet) knowledgeable about these programs, but will do some work so we can blog about this in future.

The NY Times X-minute workouts are designed with functional fitness in mind; over time, they’ve done 9-minute, their Scientific 7-minute and also 6-minute workouts (which actually take longer than that, just FYI), and included a 7-minute workout that you do standing. I wrote in more detail about the 6-minute workout here.

Basically, these workouts all include some of the following:

  • push-up: against the wall, on knees, extended body from mat, etc.
  • plank: against the wall, weight bench or table, on knees, extended body from mat, etc.
  • bird dog: I love this one, which I do in yoga on my hands and knees from the mat; also done against a wall or beside a chair, bench of table.
  • wall sit: done against a wall and modifiable by adjusting depth of sit, time held, possibly adding reps of up and down
  • squats: chair-assisted (chair behind for safety) or not, adjust depth of squat
  • split squats: with one leg behind and one in front, dropping back leg; either chair-assisted for balance or not; can adjust depth of lunge and number of reps
  • bicycle crunches: can do standing (touching one bent elbow to opposite knee), sitting on a stool or chair, or while lying down on mat; can adjust number of reps, whether to incorporate elbows and how close to bring elbow to knee
  • standing lunge: done to the rear, holding a wall or chair for balance, or not; modifiable by number of reps, depth of lunge
  • mountain climbers: can do them standing upright (lifting legs whatever height), against a wall, against a bench of whatever height; adjusting speed

I love it that all of these are modifiable to give me options. I want to say right now that I’m unlikely to be doing these advanced mountain climber moves or burpees (even though they’re modifiable, as you can see in the link, I can’t even countenance them). But hey, YMMV.

I’m revisiting these functional fitness exercises, rotating them into my weekly movement plans. I want to be stronger, with better balance and flexibility. It’ll help me feel better doing activities I love, like cycling, swimming, paddling, yoga, dancing, etc.

More base strength, flexibility and balance will allow me to be more adventurous, too. Will another parkour class be in my future? Martial arts? Surfing? Tennis? Dunno, but I want to be ready for what comes as I slide into my 60s.

Samantha and Tracy started this blog with “Fittest by Fifty” in mind. I want to be

  • Sassy (I can check that one off now)
  • Spirited
  • Strong
  • Spry (well, Spryer/Sprier)
  • Self-confident
  • Splendid

by Sixty. It’s totally doable.

Of course, functional fitness isn’t the only thing that helps us meet our adjective list. But it’s a part of what helps us get around and be fabulous.

Readers, how are you feeling about your functional fitness? Is it in the background for you, or are you paying more specific attention to it? What are you doing? I’d love to hear from you, as always.

One thought on “Get up! Get on up! Functional fitness to the rescue…

  1. Getting up and off the floor is an ongoing bit for me. Joint & muscle pain find me in the most inconvenient moments.
    Many years ago a Tai Chi teacher reminded me that getting onto the floor to meditate and getting back up was part of the physical training of the class. He wasn’t wrong. I don’t just find myself sitting on the floor, it’s a choice.
    Heck when we got a new car I had to lift my legs up and in instead of stepping down and I was shocked that a small change in moving was really hard at first. I had to grab my pant leg to help cajole my thigh up and over.

    Like

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