It is that time again!
The New Year is an important time for businesses in the health and fitness industry, especially gyms! Every year there are a few waves of sign-ups and just after the New Year is one of the biggest.
The thing is, big box gyms couldn’t actually support the number of members on their books if they actually all show up. What this means to you is that your big box gym is counting on you to fail in your New Year’s resolution. That is why it is unreasonable to expect them to properly support your fitness efforts, lifestyle changes, or overall goals… At least not in any -actually- effective way.
The problem is that the current message regarding health, dominated as it is by big industry fitness, focuses on short term, externally driven results. In other words, losing a few pounds, getting your “beach body” back, how you look.
There is no doubt that carrying around extra weight can have negative health effects, but what most people don’t realize is that the challenge of extra poundage to your heart persists whether or not your extra pounds come from fat or muscle. Extra fat usually comes with higher blood triglycerides and cholesterol, which is why it gets all the press, because there are other common risk factors associated with it.
However, extra muscle also forces the heart to work harder, so cardiovascular health becomes even more important for someone with extra muscle weight. Also, the hard truth is that many very muscular folks out there are in terrible cardiovascular condition.
So rather than learning what to do for your health from an industry that has a vested interest in your fitness failure, perhaps looking into a new fitness model, one that is sustainable for a lifetime, is warranted.
The functional fitness movement is very popular right now, as any YouTube or Google Search will tell you. However, sorting through these can be daunting and many of them are just competitive or “hardcore” versions of the same old ideas. If an exercise is to be “functional” it must reflect the way the human body moves and interacts with objects in the world. To understand how this woks, we must understand planes of movement and functional muscle groups.
I will address these functional groups in a later post, for today, let’s look at planes of movement.
This image shows the three basic planes of movement. Imagine an arrow pointing along one of these planes, then follow the arrow from tail to point. This would be how movement on the plane would travel. When you look at the sagittal plane, you will see that most traditional exercises, (i.e. bicep curl or chest press) actually use movement ONLY in this plane.
But think about how you interact with the world. How frequently do you find yourself with your feet shoulder width apart, side by side, as you push with both hands against a weight without moving anything else?
Humans move with our feet, we are bipedal and usually have to stabilize our trunk against the force we produce with our legs and torso as we overcome the inertia of the object. The result is that we must fire a series of muscles in different parts of our body. Think of it like dominoes all lined up to be knocked over. If the timing of the falls or the distance between them is not just right, then the chain will not fall correctly. This kind of neuromuscular organization can be developed and improved by engaging and challenging your balance, strength and stability while working under a load.
That is what we do in 9Fit! We act upon loads in multiple planes with balance and stability challenges. A wide body of research tells us that we can see improvements in posture, long term reductions in chronic pain and a greater ability to adapt strength to different activities with this kind of training.
So, let’s stop playing into the hands of corporate fitness by making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, let’s make sustainable commitments to long term health. Instead of setting a goal like losing a certain number of pounds, let’s set a goal like moving a certain number of pounds, making movements that are stronger, better supported and more balanced.
Keeping up with these kinds of goals, plus caring for heart health by getting adequate cardiovascular exercise will also have the side benefit of shedding fat and changing body composition if it is combined with a good nutritional program. The main difference is that sustainable goals don’t have end points, just sign posts. they scale according to our level of ability and have the potential to continue driving us forward.