If you’re over 30 you know that functional exercise is a great alternative to plastic surgery and other difficult treatments. But how exactly do you build a functional exercise regimen? What do you need to do to finally obtain a healthy body that won’t let you down when you need the energy to get through work, the kids, housework, and never ending errands?
It’s not as hard as it seems. You don’t have to get up at 5 AM every day and schlep to a gym to start loosening your muscles and joints. You don’t need some muscled guy named Biff standing over you, shouting, “No pain, No gain!” That’s just not how it works for arthritis sufferers. In fact, the “no pain, no gain” mentality will only end up making you feel worse. Then, you won’t feel like exercising at all!
If you are really out of shape, you know how it is. Even the thought of exercise can be painful. Overdo it once or twice, and you’ll probably decide that sitting on the couch watching the latest reality show is a better way to deal with your pain than continuing to exercise. Unfortunately, that’s not going to do anything to make get you fitter and firmer.
Think about it this way. Would you try to teach a second grader long division by standing over her and barking orders? No. Especially not if she is already having trouble with arithmetic. Taking this approach would make her even more confused, frustrated, and hurt. In the end, she will probably just end up hating math altogether, because she associates it with pain.
The same is true for functional exercise. See, if it’s been 3 months or more since you’ve worked out, taking a hard core approach isn’t going to help anything. For one thing, pushing too hard, too fast increases the chance that you will tear muscles or ligaments. Your muscles did not become tight and tense overnight, and there is no way they are going to become limber and stronger overnight either.
An often overlooked exercise is stretching. Now, when you stretch, you are in fact tearing down the fibers of your muscles. Stretching produces microscopic tears in the muscles, which is necessary for increased flexibility. But this has to happen a little at a time. Why? Because your body has to build new muscle fibers to fill in these tears. Over time, this process of breaking down and rebuilding lengthens your muscles, and makes them stretch more easily.
The other reason why the “no pain, no gain” approach is bad for you is because your body is simply not used to functional exercise. Your muscles have to “learn” exercise, the same way an elementary student has to learn math. Without the proper training, your muscles won’t be able to obtain the full benefit from functional exercise.
So take it slow and work with your body, instead of simply trying to make it work for you. Expect some soreness in the beginning because you will be putting your muscles through a lot of changes, but this will go away after the first couple of weeks.
About the Author: Producer of Beginners Dynamic Yoga Release Stress and Lose Weight DVD, Suzanne Andrews, a licensed occupational therapy practitioner and star of Functional Fitness on PBS TV, guides you with stretching moves to increase your flexibility and guided visualization to help you lose weight.