We are in the thick of it: the season where conversations revolve around how you want to look in your swimsuit. Pools are open and every magazine you read has an article about your summer body fitness routine.
There is a part of all of us that would love to rock a bathing suit, but why is that?
Truthfully, at the root of it all is our desire to feel great. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to believe that looking good in a bikini is what we need in order to feel good about ourselves. We have been socially constructed to be sensitive to what people think of us, but is the answer to feeling great merely looking good in board shorts? Instead, make your fitness focus on becoming functional.
What does that mean? Being functional varies based on each individual. For some of us it means overcoming pain, immobility and obstacles that lie in our own abilities. For most people, however, becoming functional simply starts by addressing issues we deal with on a day-to-day basis, such as joint/musculoskeletal pains. A recent survey found that 29% of the approximately 2,000 Canadians interviewed suffer from chronic pain that is continuous or intermittent for at least six months. That means one in three people have issues that limit them from being able to function. We need to focus on mobility, stability and increasing strength.
For those who don’t have injuries or limitations, function is having the strength and stamina to attack the fun yet exhilarating physical challenges that the summer has to offer.
If you’re an individual that enjoys adventure, it means having the ability to run 10 kilometres, try mountain biking, summit a mountain, or dabble with rock climbing. It means having the stability, mobility, strength, endurance and stamina to take on any exciting challenges.
Some of us need a reality check to realize our limitations and how they affect us emotionally and physically. Did an “easy” level hike leave you out of breath, or did a bike ride along the river have your legs feeling like lead? The first reaction is to get in better shape.
Instead of getting caught up in weight loss goals, calorie counting and repetitive exercise to simply burn calories, challenge yourself to focus on creating a foundation.
The best part about it is if you focus on function and incorporate it into your training you will be amazed as to how you could end up looking in your bathing suit as a byproduct of merely enjoying the sun and the plethora of outdoor activities. Feeling good comes from being able!
Increase mobility: Generally speaking, most issues stem from immobility in the hips, spine and shoulders; therefore, incorporate mobilization exercises before every workout.
The focus is to increase joint mobility while dynamically warming up muscles to prepare them for the lifting component of your workout. Start with a four-point squat. It is a great mobility exercise that targets all three problem areas. Complete 8-12 repetitions.
Increase stability: Before you get into the meat and potatoes of your workout make sure you warm up your stabilizers, but be careful not to fatigue them. A piece of advice to help engage your stabilizers is to drop the weight and focus on form. Using a 15-20 repetition count will help recruit muscular activation and increase neuromuscular response.
Muscles that require attention will be different for each person, but generally speaking the lower and mid trapezius, serratus anterior and the rotator cuff usually require some love. Also, the hips and core, glutes, glutes, and glutes! To really attack the glutes and get them to fire, incorporate hip bridges into your stabilizer strengtheners. Increasing stability is a work in progress. If you make time to incorporate a proper warm up and save time for stabilizer strengthening at the end of your workout you will be able to avert some of that pain and really challenge yourself and focus on strength.
To safely and affectively do strength training, mobility and stability are pre-requisites. Create that solid foundation and then begin incorporating strength training into your regime to get the total package. If all of this is new to you, get a movement analysis done by a qualified professional like an Athletic Therapist or Personal Trainer who can narrow down areas of focus and suggest exercises to incorporate into your training.
Be strong, be able, and be functional!