Monday, October 4, 2010

Survival of the most FUNCTIONAL?

Functional. The dictionary defines this as "of or having a special purpose or action", "capable of operating". These days, however, it seems to be a word that's tossed around and taken on many ,sometimes conflicting definitions . Everything, we are told, in order to make life easier, more "live-able", needs to be "functional"-- our schedules, our computers, our phones, our cars, our money , our homes, our food. We have contraptions and gadgets galore to accommodate our increasingly hectic lives and needs. And every day, the newer, quicker, better model appears. Sure, you might have to empty your bank account to keep up with these replacements, but who cares, right? If it's newer, quicker and BETTER, it's definitely what we NEED to merely SURVIVE in this complex, fast-paced world.

But what about our bodies? Fitness professionals have for several years now been using the word "functional" to describe a specific type of exercise and regimen that advertises optimal levels of fitness. Hmmmm...interesting. I was curious. And so, I took a good, long look at what this actually entails and even went so far as to experiment with several of these "functional" fitness programs. What I found, ironically, is that fitness too has often become a costly piece of this "functional" puzzle. The programs tended to include the purchase of the newest, quickest, best gadgets, dvds, and costly equipment that claimed to deliver the ultimate exercise and best looking bodies. Fast. So...if you buy the ab roller, the perfect pushup system, the P90X dvds, the shoes, the compression shorts AND the high end vitamin supplements, detox juices and energy bars and gels, you'll achieve perfect, functional fitness? Sounds suspiciously just like the rest of our lives---gotta keep up with the latest and greatest.

Okay, I'll admit I've used some of these crazy gadgets and systems in my training. I like kettlebells, jump ropes, and medicine balls and use them regularly in my exercise regimen. And I think a lot of the sports and workouts that use them definitely have a good, solid foundation in developing successful levels of fitness. But I can't help but is it that after all these fancy contraptions, equipment, and programs, we're STILL fighting extraordinary rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease ? How are we NOT healthier?

Well, think about THIS... the moment we became sedentary in our work AND play, was the moment we had to invent gadgets to make it easier to take care of our bodies. Flash back to our hunting and gathering ancestors who spent hours upon days upon weeks devoted to moving their bodies---running, jumping, catching, SURVIVE. Pre-TV, pre-motor vehicles, pre-phones, pre-processed, scientifically engineered food, pre-rubberized, gore-tex, specialized shoes, pre-treadmills, pre-wii sports, battery operated, computer animated exercise world. Today, we are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into our health. And we're getting FATTER. Our hospital bills are growing larger. We're DYING. We're NOT surviving at all!

I've been thinking a lot about my own survival and I'm pretty sure a treadmill or an ipod or a pair of fancy running shoes won't save me in a crucial moment of life or death. So...Do I have what it takes to survive a major disaster? Could I defend myself in a moment of danger?

To me, this is what "functional" fitness really means. Moving my body in a way that achieves the natural strength, energy and endurance I need to survive anything from walking down icy steps in winter to climbing up and over a wall or fence if I were being chased by a predator. It also means I can defend myself against illness, injury, and the little, every-day battles we endure just by living. Now I'm not saying there's not a place in my life for a yoga mat or a pullup bar or a medicine ball. But what I AM saying is that these things aren't the TOTAL package for my ultimate survival kit.
So I'm conducting a little experiment. A few days a week, I've been taking a minimalist approach to my fitness regimen and rather than dumping more and more money into equipment and gadgets, I've been using what I already have---my body. My ENTIRE body. As is. No fancy stuff. Just me and the ultimate playground--nature! Climbing trees, sprinting up mountains, jumping off rocks, crawling, swimming, rolling, bounding, flipping, running, pulling, pushing---the way my body is MEANT to move. Functional. The way our ancestors moved every survive. This hasn't changed! Our bodies are STILL designed for this! We are not meant to be motionless or sit in front of computers and video games and TVs. Moving is BASIC, and EASY and requires no gym membership or special device or website to tell us how. You don't need special clothes, or shoes or energy shots or music to make movement happen. What would happen if we actually LISTENED to our bodies instead of our ipods? Or if we PAID ATTENTION to our heart rate instead of strapping on an expensive monitor that tell us what's going on in our bodies?

Maybe it's just because I'm a kid at heart and want my body to respond the way it did when I was young. But truly---I think it's completely possible. And so does Erwan Le Corre. He's become a bit of a hero to me. Check out his video below. This guy is truly AMAZING and I'm completely mesmerized by the way he moves and how fluid and natural it is! Inspirational. And I'm pretty sure this guy can survive anything!

This is NOT a new concept, by the way. But wouldn't it be interesting if fitness took a turn--BACK to this natural movement approach? I, for one, sure wouldn't mind!

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we are a DYING society. We are a society that doesn't know how to deal with the heaps of stress that are piled on us. And when the infomercials and ads and billboards are all saying there is a new way to help make our day-to-day activities be more "functional" or make the process of achieving some goal easier, people are suffering in such silent desperation that they will buy anything and will justify that purchase if it gives them just the slightest glimmer of hope. We have no better historical example of this irrationality than President Bush told the American people, while grieving 9/11 and trying to make sense of the world, that we should shop??? Seriously?! It speaks directly to the fallacy of neoliberal consumerism. I'm willing to bet that the "stuff" we spent hours researching on the internet and all our money buying are not going to be thing things we are thinking about as we lay on our deathbed. We're not going to say, "I'm sure glad I got that new TV last year so my family will have something to hold onto when I'm gone." Life is supposed to be about making memories and you can't make memories if you don't do SOMETHING for yourself and for/with the people you love. So, maybe I'm a little off topic from just getting the newest fitness gadgets that are out on the market, but I think it's a part of the same underlying mentality.

    I think this post ties all of your previous posts together so well. We should be playing. We should be strong and allow our strength [physical, mental, emotional] to guide us toward new adventures. We should write down and say out loud what those new adventures will be. And we should be patient with ourselves as we actively reach for our goals, as well as stay open to the possibility of going new directions that you might not have predicted. There is nothing that we can "buy" that will give us these things. We have to just start by "doing."

    As a persistent procrastinator, I can attest that the first step is almost always the hardest. But what I usually find, is that once I've taken that first step, the task suddenly doesn't feel so overwhelming or unmanageable. One of these days, I hope to let go of my procrastination tendencies altogether. For now, I'm going to go run, since I've been putting it off for the last 2 hours ;o) Thanks E, for being such an inspiration to me!!!