Thursday, April 9, 2009

Poor Excuses

"Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful." -- Mark Victor Hansen

There are re-occurring excuses for not beginning a functional fitness program. It sounds a lot like:  "I'm not ready for that stuff yet," or "I need to get in shape before I start that."  The variations include "too fat" or "too old." All are poor defenses, none of which I can accept.

Here's why I cannot accept excuses like this:

First, it tells me you might not have an understanding of how functional fitness (FF) programs are designed, or why they work.  FF is rooted in the concept of real-life, natural, practical movements.  Many of the movements replicate your daily activities...lifting, pulling, carrying, squatting, walking, bending, rolling over, getting out of a low couch or chair. These are human movement patterns that all people use during daily existence.  An exercise like a clean and press looks very similar to lifting a travel suitcase into an airplane's overhead baggage compartment. There are no funky contraptions that are popularized in most health clubs. We use simple weights and equipment. No intimidation here.

Secondly, your excuse tells me you may have not been introduced to all-important adjustments for YOUR abilities. FF programs pride themselves on scalability and modifiability.  Scaling a workout refers to down-adjusting weight (or load) or reducing the number of repetitions.  For example, if a specific day's workout calls for a weightlifting exercise using 275# (and you surely cannot use that much weight), then you might scale the weight down to 185#....or even 100#. Basically you make adjustments to avoid injury yet still cause positive adaptations in your muscles. 

Modifying a workout is another way to adjust a workout. Modifications may be made for several reasons: lack of equipment, injury, inflexibility, poor range of motion.  For example, if you cannot yet perform an L-sit on parallettes, then a substitute might be a knee tuck sit.  The best modifications are similar to the subbed exercise.  Another example might be doing inverted rows in place of pullups. Both of those movements work "pulling" musculature in your upper body.

As another example, examine dips. Dips can be scaled or modified in a number of ways.  It doesn't matter at which level you begin. It does matter that you do the exercise in a safe and proper way, with the goal to advance through the motion's various levels of skill and difficulty.
  • parallette dips
  • jumping dips
  • chair or partner assist dips
  • counter-balance machine assist
  • bar dips
  • ring dips
  • weighted bar dips
  • weighted ring dips
Adjustments are good.  Most athletes and participants cannot do all of the crazy FF workouts without some form of modification or down-scale.  For me personally, each time I find myself doing a workout "as prescribed" (also noted as RX'ed), I get a sense of satisfaction. As each month goes by, I have to substitute and adjust less. That's progress enough!!! discover I am increasing my physical skills and abilities.

Thirdly, I might begin to think you don't believe me that all this nonsense about FF actually works.  By "works" I mean it produces results.  Results in the functional fitness world are measured by Power Output (force times distance divided by time). This means in a specific time period, you can move heavier weight, for more repetitions, longer distances, at a faster pace. Power output is measurable and repeatable. The "benchmark" workouts are periodically repeated to gauge performances increases.  Do more in less time. We use stopwatches for a reason!

To summarize, you do not have to get in better shape to begin this stuff.  What you need to do is scale and modify the exercises and movements to your abilities and injuries. I will help you do that.  Use less weight, for less repetitions, for shorter time, at a slower pace, and within safe ranges of motion. Just start. It really is for almost anyone!

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