Let's see how much you know about some basic fitness subjects. A 5 question quiz.
1) What is Functional Training?
A) Individual exercises that focus on performing only one function
B) Training designed to help your body function in the real world
C) Working out at an event/function
D) Fitness people trying desperately to find a word they can use to put the "Fun" in something.
Although I do personally try to put the "Fun" in Functional training, the answer is B) Training designed to help your body function in the real world. Let's face it, even the most dedicated gym goer is only in the gym for a limited time. The rest of our life is spent in the real world unpacking groceries, reaching into the back seat for something, trying to get out of chair, shoveling and any other number of activities. If you just had a moment where you were reminded of pain in your body as you imagined doing the things on that list, you could benefit from functional training (we all could).
For example, as a trainer, I could have you do chest presses all day long but the likelihood that you will find yourself on your back trapped under something heavy and need that particular motion is, hopefully, small. However, if I flip you over and have you do a push up, all of a sudden you are using the same chest muscles but also your back, arms, abs, and legs. You're also more likely to need to get yourself off the floor in that way - if something rolls under the bed/car or you get down to play with your new grandchild, etc... Functional training takes a more integrated approach to how your body moves and trains you for real life.
The author demonstrating the benefits of functional training.
2) How do you do a squat?
A) Place your feet together, press your knees forward, and bend over like you are about to go off a ski jump.
B) Roll your eyes, gnash your teeth, rend your garments, and complain.
C) Widen your stance, put your weight in your heels, lift your chest and sink backward like you are going to sit in an invisible (or actual) chair.
D) Hire a trainer, tell them you're never going to do a squat unless they make you, do the squats when they tell you to while also doing the steps in B.
As a trainer, I see an awful lot of B and D but the correct answer is C) Widen your stance, put your weight in your heels, lift your chest and sink backward like you are going to sit in an invisible (or actual) chair. You may not realize it but you do squats of some sort all day long. Standing up and sitting down is a squat. You probably don't consciously think about the steps I've described but you might want to start. You may not have "be able to get on and off the toilet" actually written on your bucket list but I'm pretty sure it's there.
We are born with an innate ability to do a perfect squat but lose that ability over time if we don't work at it.
I hear "I can't do squats (or lunges) they hurt my knees" all the time. However, when you take the time to break it down and do it right, the pain should go away. The key for most people is to put your weight in your heels instead of the balls of your feet. If you're sitting right now skootch forward to the edge of your chair (unless it's a rolling chair in which case please refrain or find another chair). Place your feet flat on the ground a little wider than hip width apart
(if you are in heels take them off). Sit up super tall (like someone is judging your posture) and pull your abs in (like you just walked in to your high school reunion). Keeping your knees above your ankles (don't let them go any further forward than your toes - that's usually where the pain comes in), press through your heels and stand up. If you can't do that without thrusting your upper body forward that's ok. You can build up to it by holding on to something, like your desk, or find a taller chair to change the angle of your legs. Lack of flexibility in the various joints involved can also contribute to you not being able to squat to the best of your ability. Roll your ankles a few times and try again. I could go on and on with ways to help you squat but we have a quiz to finish so...
3) What is my Max Heart Rate (MHR)?
A) The heart rate I'm supposed to reach to prove I've had a good workout.
B) A number I know nothing about.
C) 220 minus my age
D) The upper limit of what my cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity
The wrong answer is A) The heart rate you're supposed to reach to prove you've had a good workout. It's called Max(imum) Heart Rate for a reason. Just because your car has 120 miles an hour on the speedometer doesn't mean you should floor it. (Although now I kind of want to take my Prius out for a spin...) Generically, your MHR is C) 220 minus your age and is defined as D) the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity. Unfortunately, that equation only holds true for about one third of the population. Everyone else is either faster or slower. I'm 40 years old so that means my calculated MHR is 180. That actually seems to be true for me. If I'm working at 85% effort and get my heart rate to 160 I feel like I'm dying. But if another 40 year old whose heart generally beats faster gets to that point they may feel fine because their personal MHR is higher. And the reverse is true - someone whose heart runs slower could never get to that 160. What you don't want to do is slow down (or speed up) just because you've gotten to a certain number. You have to pay attention to how you actually feel as well. Investing in a heart rate monitor is a really good way to track the numbers and compare them to your physical experience. With some systems you will have to adjust the settings if the numbers they suggest don't work for you. And speaking of getting your heart rate up...
4) What is Interval Training?
A) Sometimes I workout, sometimes I don't.
B) Working out so that your heart rate goes up, then recovers, then goes up again, repeat.
C) Switching from cardio training to strength training to flexibility training.
D) Training at different times of the day.
Although there is nothing wrong with answers A, C, and D, the correct answer is B) Working out so that your heart rate goes up, then recovers, then goes up again, repeat. Put even more simply: work hard, rest, work hard, rest. There are an infinite number of ways to do interval training. What changes is what you are doing and how long you are doing it. You could run and walk on the treadmill or outside. If I'm running outside I like to use telephone poles to determine my intervals instead of time. For example, run to one telephone pole, jog or walk to the next, run one, jog one. You could do push-ups or burpees or squats or a combination of anything that makes you feel like you're working hard. One prescribed way to do intervals is something called Tabata
. In short, you workout hard for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and complete 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes. Do that 5 times and you've got yourself a killer 20 minute workout.
5) What is Self-Myofascial Release?
A) That moment at the end of the workout when you get to collapse in a heap on the floor
B) Giving yourself a deep tissue massage
C) Using the facial product samples at the spa
D) Are you sure you want me to answer that?
The answer is B) Giving yourself a deep tissue massage. Of all the things I've learned since becoming a trainer, I think this is the one that I've found the most helpful. You are essentially trying to massage your way to more mobility and less pain. There are lots of tools you can use to do this - foam rollers, tennis/lacrosse/softballs, Theracanes, and rolling sticks (basically rolling pins but for your body. I may have used an actual wooden rolling pin to do this. You may not be surprised to hear I don't do a lot of baking.) If you're interested in learning more there are tons of YouTube videos on how to do it. Here's one
that is pretty basic using just a lacrosse ball.
So, how'd you do? This was a very brief introduction to some of the fitness terms you may read on this blog. There is so much more you can learn about each of these subjects if you want to do a little research.
Have a question you'd like to "ask the trainer."? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com
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More about the author, Amy Fortier: A short interview