If you dread your workout, chances are you're not going to do it. Slogging away on a treadmill for hours may be good for your body but it's not great for your mind. We've put together 5 awesome ways to get fit and burn calories without even realising it!
Gardening is a great functional fitness workout as it will have you squatting down, stretching high, lifting your arms, and carrying heavy loads, all of which will challenge every muscle group in your body. A 140lb (10st) woman can expect to burn up to 300 calories from 1 hour of gardening!
This is a great way to keep fit as it is free, you don't have to leave the comfort of your home, and in the summer you will be exposed to revitalising vitamin D from the sunlight. Not only this, it's a great skill to develop and you will have a beautiful garden to show for your efforts!
2. Playing a musical instrument
It may not feel like it, but playing a musical instrument can be a very energetic activity. Especially instruments like the drums where you use your whole body to play, you can expect to burn between 100-300 calories in an hour!
Learning to play an instrument is an excellent skill to develop as it'll focus you mentally and this should help you in day-to-day life. Not only this, it can be very social as you can then join a band or orchestra to share your passion with others.
3. Playing with your children
It can sometimes feel difficult to exercise when you have kids as finding time can be almost impossible. Playing with your children by chasing after them in a park or playing football or another sport with them is an awesome way of getting fit yourself while also allowing your kids to expend all their pent up energy. Forget lifting weights, lifting your kids will give you a great workout without having to hit the gym!
Playing with your children gives you an opportunity to bond and you won't even notice how many calories you're burning. Another benefit is that you'll be helping your kids to get active from a young age which will really help them in the long run.
4. Walking the dog
If you have a furry friend or two, you can expect to burn up to 200 calories an hour by walking them. Depending on how energetic your dog is, you could even go jogging with them to help them exercise better.
By having the company of your dog, you won't feel as self-conscious while out and about and knowing that you have to walk them will be all the motivation you need.
Finally, spending time cleaning your house can be a great way of burning calories, toning up, and you'll have a beautiful sparkly house at the end of it! Just like with gardening, cleaning will act as a full body workout as you'll be squatting down to scrub low surfaces, reaching high, bending and twisting in all directions in order to clean. This will mean that all of your muscles are worked – even ones you may never have worked before!
The energy and excitement of making new year's resolutions and getting fit is well and truly burnt out and the gym is starting to empty out again. How can you stay motivated when all you want to do is melt into the sofa and eat? We're here to help. Follow these tips to boost your motivation when it feels like there's no hope.
1. Partner up
If you have someone to let down, you'll be less likely to flake. Having accountability means you have more of a reason to get to the gym and it will be more hassle to have to text your friend or personal trainer to say you're not going and then get an earful from then than to just go. Plus, you'll know that once you're there you'll have a great time because training with a buddy makes training more bearable.
2. Get changed
How many times have you been sat on the sofa watching TV after work telling yourself "I'll go in a minute" or "I'll go when this show is finished" and then it never happens? By getting changed into your activewear you're getting the ball rolling and getting into the right frame of mind to work out. Once you're changed into your sportswear you're already halfway there and will be much more ready to get out there and go train.
3. Take your gym gear to work
If you go to the gym straight from work, you won't have a chance to talk yourself out of it. If you pair this with point number 1 of partnering up and telling your friend you'll join them at the gym, you'll be well on your way to success. Get changed at work and go straight to the gym instead of going home first. It's much harder to gee yourself back up once you're home from work than if you continue the momentum from your day at the office.
4. Have a workout to look forward to
There's nothing worse than finishing a monotonous day at work and thinking about now having to go and run on a treadmill for half an hour while staring at a wall. By planning out a fun and exciting workout, you'll actually want to go to the gym and do it. Try circuit training or functional training to mix things up and talk to a personal trainer if you'd like to try something new like Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit. If you're dreading the workout, getting motivated can be impossible. Whereas if you're actually looking forward to it, exercising can be a joy instead of a chore. If you enjoy something like Zumba, sign up for a class! Group exercise can be a great way to stay motivated too.
5. Use the 10 second rule
If you find yourself making terrible excuses like "it's raining" or "I'm too tired" then use the 10 second rule. It's very simple: count to 10 and then go anyway! This will eliminate your mind telling you that you can't do it and 9 times out of 10 you'll find that you actually enjoy the workout and will be pleased that you went.
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We are almost all guilty of being chronic sitters. In fact we spend on average 8.9 hours a day sat down in the UK. The result is slumped shoulders, arched backs and poor posture, but functional training can fix that. Knowing the right corrective exercises can help you to improve and even correct your posture.
Effects of poor posture
Posture helps stabilise the spine and prevents back pain and fatigue. When the back is straight, the spine is supported by stabilising muscles. As you slouch or practice other methods of poor posture, your spine no longer has the support it needs to stay balanced which can lead to health problems.
Poor posture causes aches and pains. In an ideal world your spine is in neutral alignment and your muscles support your frame, however as we fall away from this alignment, the muscles have to over extend or contract to try and keep the spine stable and protected. This then leads to tightness and fatigue. The major muscles which suffer the effects of this are the Rectus Abdominus, Internal and External Obliques, Erector Spinae, Splenius and the Multifidus. This is why aches are not limited to the lower back, but can also be felt in the neck and shoulders.
Curvature of the Spine
A more serious effect of poor posture is the development of a spinal curve. Naturally your spine should resemble a soft “s” shape, however poor posture can cause this to become exaggerated. When bad posture becomes a habit, pressure on the spine builds and slowly but surely, the curves in the spine change position. Once its position has changed, the spine's ability to achieve what it’s designed to do - absorb shock and keep you balanced, is significantly reduced.
A change in the spinal curve can cause subluxations. A subluxation is a partial misalignment of the vertebra which can become a major issue. One affected vertebrae can then affect the integrity of the entire spinal column. The knock on result of this is that spinal nerves can then become stressed and irritated.
Blood Vessel Constriction
Poor posture changes the alignment of your spine, the resulting movement and subluxations can cause problems with blood vessel constriction. The constriction of the blood vessels around the spine can cut off blood supply to the cells of the muscles, which can then affect their nutrient and oxygen supply. Blood vessel constriction can also raise your chances of clot formation and deep vein thrombosis.
One of the most common side effects of bad posture is nerve constriction. As the spine changes in shape, the resulting movements or subluxations can put pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves. The nerves that connect to the spine come from all over the body and when pinched can not only cause neck and back pain but may also cause pain in other unrelated areas of the body.
How can you fix your posture?
Tight hip flexors often occur as a result of extended periods of sitting and can cause shortening of the muscles. Tight hips can also lead to a restricted range of motion and discomfort around the lower back muscles, joints and legs.
Functional corrective exercises: Corrective exercises for tight hip flexors would include lots of dynamic movements to strengthen the hips, making sure to mobilise this normally static muscle group. Tight hip flexors will restrict your range of motion for a good squat, so try warm up exercises to activate the hips before you step into a squat rack.
Exercises may include:
- Standing donkey kicks
- Cross body leg swings (these could be banded or performed with a cable attachment)
- Yoga moves such as the “Open Lizard Stretch” or “Pigeon” or “Butterfly” stretch
Internally Rotated Shoulders
Typically it’s those with office jobs who tend to suffer from internally rotated shoulders the most. This is because you’re sat leaning over a computer and extending the arms to type. This causes a craning of the neck and pain around the top of the neck and shoulders and can also result in weak chest muscles. In order to correct this, we need to strengthen the chest and perform exercises which retract the shoulders.
Exercises may include:
- Cable flyes - Always opt for standing over seated when trying to train functionally. Sitting is not functional. Strengthening the chest will help to push your shoulders back and improve your posture, as the chest muscles are reactivated.
- Rotator cuff exercises such as a lawn mower pull - A lawn mower pull requires you to pull a band or cable from the ground, across the body and up to the shoulder joint, retracting your shoulder.
This is caused by... wait for it… you guess it, too much sitting! Sitting completely deactivates our largest muscle group and can cause weak, tight glutes. This can often lead to sway back and an overextended pelvis.
Exercises may include:
- Deep sumo squats - These will activate the glutes and fire up the hip flexors, taking a wide (sumo) stance also enables you to get lower into the squat, activating more of the glutes and training the abductors.
- Multidirectional lunges - Multidirectional lunges are great for reactivating tired glutes as you fire up the muscles in multiple planes of motion, you should complete a lunge on each leg at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock.
As well as targeting areas which have suffered the effects of too much sitting, we can also stretch to prevent these tight zones in the first place or be more active throughout the day. A great way of doing this is EHOH, an initiative designed to prevent the dangers of sitting, where every hour on the hour, you get up and do a mini workout routine, stretch your legs and move your body about to prevent the dangers of sitting.
Functional fitness refers to any type of fitness or training that works your muscles together in a way that prepares them for a specific task or everyday movements. But is it better than isolated training such as bodybuilding? How can it help you in everyday life?
What are the benefits of functional training?
A good level of fitness is important, we know this. Having a good level of fitness promotes better health and a longer lifespan, but why is functional fitness important?
Functional fitness trains us for everyday life. The exercises in a functional fitness exercise programme mimic real life activities and are designed to allow you to perform your day-to-day activities more easily and without injury. Each exercise focuses on several muscle groups instead of isolating just one, so all of your muscles work together to perform the movement. This is important because all of our muscles depend on each other and are supposed to work together. By using our muscles together, we become more efficient.
Functional training exercises
There are four types of functional fitness known as the 'four pillars'. All of your functional training exercises will come under one or more of these categories.
Locomotion refers to moving from one point to another, whether it’s skipping, jumping, jogging or running. When locomotion is required, single-leg movements are best as this trains both sides of your body equally and will reduce imbalances as we all have one more naturally dominant side. Functional training therefore includes lots of single-leg movements designed to enhance functional movement patterns.
Level changes are movements from low to high. Our body goes through lots of level changes in every day life, such as being seated to getting up and standing, bending over to pick things up and lifting things into the air or onto a high shelf. If you have a physical job, you may have to perform lots of level changes with heavy equipment or materials and therefore functional training would be great for you. Level change exercises include deadlifts and shoulder pressing.
Push and Pull
Push and pull makes up almost every exercise, whether it's pushing and pulling weights, cables, objects or your own body weight. These two movement patterns are fundamental to functional training. Most functional push and pull movements require you to push and pull whilst standing. So whilst a bench press wouldn’t be functional, a standing chest press using a cable machine would. With pulling motions, you’re typically pulling something towards you, often off the ground, and that’s where bent-over rows come in. Pull-ups are also great for training various grips required for sports, however rows are probably the best functional pulling move.
Rotation is required in most movements; we bend and twist to pick things up, to get dressed of a morning or to shoot in tennis or rugby. Rotation accelerates and decelerates movement, cables are great for training with rotation as they add resistance to regular movement patterns.
What is functional training?
An exercise becomes functional when it improves everyday function. If an exercise has a real life equivalent, it becomes functional. In real life you may not do a lunge with a medicine ball cross body rotation as such, but you may stagger your stance as you catch and twist to throw to another player in a netball match, for example.
When it comes to functional movements, children move far better and more easily than us. Children typically perform squats and deadlifts without anyone having to show them how and it is as we grow older and become more sedentary that these movements become unnatural.
Functional fitness benefits
When we talk about training functionally, we look at how muscles work together to support entire body movements. This means we look at how muscles connect to form a chain of reactions which create movement, identifying any weak links in that chain can improve performance. When we focus on muscles working together for function, we call these “muscle slings”.
Adding functional movement to any routine, will help improve your day to day function and keep your training varied.
Functional fitness is designed to focus your training on improving daily function. What’s functional will differ from person to person, as what we do in our daily lives is different. So, is functional fitness right for you?
What’s not functional fitness?
Functional training was originally focused on developing better movement quality and exercises like two-legged jumps and wood chops reflect this. However, not every crazy exercise you see people doing in the gym is worth copying. You may see people balancing on a Bosu ball throwing dumbbells around or balancing on one leg. This is not functional fitness as it does not prepare you for everyday movements or sports.
It's important to remember that the point of functional training is to condition your body for a particular task or exercise, such as a golfer doing cable twists to improve their drive or a footballer doing fast-feet movements to improve their footwork.
Functional Fitness vs Bodybuilding
Can you incorporate functional fitness into a bodybuilding routine? The answer is yes. Functional fitness is not the sworn enemy of bodybuilding and in fact many bodybuilding compound lifts, such as the squat and deadlift, are adapted into functional training regimes. Where the two differ is with their focus on isolation and aesthetics. Bodybuilding focuses on the way muscles look whereas functional fitness is about how the muscles move. Therefore, bodybuilding workout routines will feature many more isolating exercises like bicep curls and lat pull downs, while functional fitness incorporates more compound movements like squat jumps and burpees.
What are the benefits of functional fitness?
Functional training gets you moving
Typically, most people spend a shocking 9-12 hours sitting down. If you work in an office, chances are you sit down for most of the day, so when you get to the gym you want to be up and moving, not sitting on machines doing isolated exercises. Functional fitness requires you to get up and to move in multiple planes of motion. Simply standing rather than sitting increases calorie expenditure and encourages better sugar metabolism. Plus, you will feel so much better after a day spent fully sedentary if you can really get your heart rate up and feel the burn during a high intensity workout.
It improves posture
Unfortunately for most of us, the stress of modern life and the pressures of our jobs aren't great for our posture. Ever feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? A hunched over back and slumped over shoulders are more common than not and it’s not good for our health. Functional fitness can improve your posture by working on muscles slings and how muscles work together. Releasing tension from the chest, for example, can help to draw back the shoulders and correct posture.
Better fat burn
Functional training burns much more fat than steady-state cardio or bodybuilding because your whole body is moving. Incorporating multi-plane, multi-joint and multi-muscle movements means high fat-burning as well as better all-round fitness. Functional training movement patterns crank up your heart rate and keep your body burning lots of calories well after your workout is over.
Can you touch your toes? No? Time to get functional. Functional training can help to develop your flexibility by developing a better range of motion in movement patterns we use in everyday life.The whole point of functional training is to replicate the body’s natural planes of motion. Contracting muscles is one aspect, but it’s equally important to stretch muscles effectively to help increase flexibility.
It is a meaningful workout
Whilst training to look good can be important on a personal level, functional training can give you a better quality of life. Functional fitness is about training to improve your life on a daily basis and this is especially important as we get older. Functional training is designed to improve the things we do every day such as keeping up with our children or bending down to load a washing machine.
It won't get boring
Training functionally keeps workouts varied and will stop you from getting fed up with going to the gym. Instead of being restricted to training one muscle group in particular and always doing the same exercises, functional training focuses on whole body integration and there are endless possibilities to fun and interesting exercises you can do.
You’ll build more muscle
Functional training incorporates a variety of different pieces of kit as well as body weight, stimulating different muscle fibres and promoting further muscle growth. Lean muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, as well as pulling against the bone to increase bone density.
Functional Training Round - Up
- Functional training incorporates weaker muscle groups which are often neglected.
- Functional training ensures you are fit enough to perform daily activities.
- Functional training can correct posture and improve flexibility.
So, if you'd like to be able to run after your kids, do daily chores, and move with ease, functional training is for you. Especially if you are chained to a desk all day at work, functional fitness could really improve your quality of life and set you up to be more mobile as you grow older.