What Functional Fitness Means to Me

by | Mar 3, 2019 | Blog

The #1 reason I workout is to develop truly functional fitness.Yes, I workout at a CrossFit box and I really love CrossFit. However, I’m not doing it because I think being able to do a pull-up is cool or because I want to brag about my deadlift max. I don’t belong to a CrossFit gym because it’s trendy or because the cool kids wear booty shorts to workout. Nope. Those aren’t the reasons I’m there.

I believe in CrossFit because it builds my functional fitness.

If you’d rather listen to this blog than read it, please hit play. Otherwise, keep reading below. 

What if we were to suspend this idea that we have to look a certain way, be a certain size or hit a certain weight and instead pursue a level of health and fitness that makes us feel amazing and equips us to go through life as confident, strong & capable humans.

What Functional Fitness Means to Me

Real life stuff. Functional fitness is about training in a way that makes me better at life. Better at moving things. Lifting things. Pulling & pushing things. Functional fitness makes me ready for any adventure or challenge, any time. Functional fitness means working in a way that improves my balance, coordination and stamina for real-life-stuff. It allows me to do more, enjoy more and trust myself more.

Functional fitness is about confidence in the little things and the big things. It allows me to walk on snowy steps and trust my balance. Functional fitness allows me to go for a hike with my sister and trust my stamina and endurance. Functional fitness allows me to lift a box off the floor and trust that I won’t get hurt.

I got an opportunity to put my own functional fitness to the test yesterday – to see exactly what CrossFit has made possible for me (that I wouldn’t have gotten from leg extensions or spin class).

functional fitness

I spent 4 hours in the snow, dragging thousands and thousands of pounds of tree limbs anywhere from 15 to 75 yards.

I had to grip these limbs tight, tugging with all my strength to break them free from the tangled mess on the ground.

I had to walk to and from that pile hundreds of times, through the snow.

I had to lift these heavy limbs 3 feet off the ground to feed them into the wood chipper.

In every single moment, I felt strong, confident, capable and grateful.

The hundreds of rowing workouts came into play.

Deadlifts and powercleans were immediately functional.

Sled drags purposeful.

Step-ups critical.

Grip strength. Core strength. Leg strength. Arm strength. Balance. Coordination. Stamina. Endurance. Power.

Functional fitness.

I knew I was safe. I knew I had learned and practiced great form in moving heavy objects quickly. I trusted my balance and coordination. I was grateful for my stamina and endurance, built via challenging workouts that had a higher purpose.

Today: I’m not sore because I’ve prioritized functional fitness and it pays off.

Even if you don’t have a need or desire to do yard work, functional fitness pays off in every aspect of life.

  • Can you shovel your driveway without feeling like you got hit by a truck?
  • Can you take 14 flights of stairs when the hotel elevator is running slow and feel capable and strong?
  • Do you feel comfortable pulling your suitcase off the ground, pressing it overhead and into the overhead bin of an airplane? Do you feel confident removing it from the overhead bin and transferring it to the floor without hurting yourself or someone else?
  • Can you confidently go for a hike with your family without worrying that you’ll get too tired to continue?
  • Can you get into and maintain exciting sexual positions without getting tired or hurt? #functionalfitness

Yesterday certainly wasn’t the first time I noticed the benefits of functional fitness.

Last year, I moved my 7 foot long couch into storage. Because of the depth of it, we couldn’t use the service elevators. My boyfriend and I carried the couch up two flights of stairs. No problem.

Just yesterday while shopping at Home Depot, I was able to pull large boxes from a shelf over my head and safely transfer them to the ground.

It’s not just that I’m strong. I move well. I can do these things safely and without injury. I know how to move heavy objects overhead with good form. I know how to pull heavy objects from the ground or pull them across the ground in a way that is safe.

It’s a pretty powerful feeling, functional fitness.

It’s important and it’s worth it and it’s never too late to develop it. 

How CrossFit Creates Functional Fitness

To the outsider, some CrossFit workouts might look stupid or unecessary. I think that perspective only reflects a lack of information or understanding. CrossFit workouts are designed to build 10 general physical skills:

  1. Endurance
  2. Stamina
  3. Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Power
  6. Speed
  7. Coordination
  8. Agility
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy

Every single one of these skills is a part of functional fitness – fitness that is applied to the normal things you do every day.

If you were to walk into a CrossFit box and see people throwing 14 or 20 pound balls at a 10 foot high target on a wall, you might think they’re crazy.

But wall balls are a way to build functional fitness. Wall balls facilitate hand eye coordination and the ability to press and also receive an object from overhead. They strengthen your glutes, core and back. They stabilize and strengthen your shoulders while improving your balance and building stamina.

You might walk into a CrossFit gym and see people doing pull-ups and ring rows and ask yourself, “Why would I ever need to do a pull-up?” Because pulling is a critical component of functional fitness. Because pulling is something we do every day. Because you can’t have a strong body without a strong back.

You might have heard me talk about doing the CrossFit hero wod “Chad” – 1,000 step-ups for time onto a 20 inch box (24 inches for the gentlemen) and wondered why on earth I’d do that? Well, I can tell you that it made trudging through my property in the snow a lot easier. Step-ups make every uphill climb and every flight of stairs easier.

Are You Intimidated by the Path to Functional Fitness?

When I started CrossFit, barbells indimidated me. Fit people intimidated me. Working out, nevermind working out with any intensity, intimidated me. And none of that matters.

Every single CrossFit workout can be scaled for every single person. Every single CrossFit workout can be scaled to exactly what YOU are capable of doing.

My mom is in her 60s. She started CrossFit and instead of a barbell, she used a 3 pound PVC pipe. After a few weeks, she was using a barbell. If there was running in a workout, she’d alternate jogging and walking. Now, she runs.

I still modify more workouts than not. If a workout calls for double unders, sometimes I’ll do a mix of doubles and singles.

I’m working on building strength overhead so I might go lighter on the overhead squats than other people do.

It doesn’t matter what anyone is doing. It matters only what I’m doing.

It matters only what you’re doing.

If you want to create functional fitness, here are a few starting points to consider:

  • Listen to episodes 074 and 513 of the Primal Potential podcast
  • Talk to an expert – I am not a fitness expert but you can call a local trainer or a local CrossFit box. Share with them what general physical skills you want to improve or how you want functional fitness to show up in your life. Ask for their help.
  • Move more – don’t overcomplicate it. Spend less time sitting. Spend less time sitting at the computer or in front of the television. Get up and go for a walk. Stand while you work. Simply move more.

If you have questions, leave a comment and I’ll happily respond or point you in the direction of an expert who can help!

The Primal Potential Podcast

Download a free chapter from Chasing Cupcakes.

Enter your first name and email below and I'll send over chapter nine from my best-selling book. 

Thanks! Check your inbox.