Functional Fitness vs. Aesthetics

By Najeeb Reyes

Functional fitness who? This term, “functional fitness,” has created quite a buzz in the athletic industry over the last few years, but what does it mean? Most importantly, should you care?

CrossFit’s backbone, in its entirety, is functional fitness. But that still doesn’t do much for a definition. We turn to Healthline.com for a quick and dirty definition –

“Functional Fitness: The ability to perform normal daily activities around the house or at work, without undue fatigue.”

Functional training, therefore, is a classification of exercise which involves training for these activities around the house, or at work, or to further enjoy your hobbies, or better yet, your vacations.

So why all the buzz, and what happened to aesthetics? Don’t we all still want to look good for our summer swimsuits? Turns out there is a lot more to the buzz, and herein lies a snipped of why CrossFit can become a bit addicting to some junkies, amongst other clues in the sport.

The origins of Functional Training are rooted in rehabilitation centers. Physical and Occupations therapists use it and have for years in order to retrain patients with movement and pattern disorders. To most of us whom did not begin doing CrossFit because of any disorder or movement problems, this makes no sense, however, lets step back for a second here and think – before we began training, could we really move the way we wanted to? Is it really fair to say that a 30 to 40 or 50 year old, male or female, shouldn’t be able to do a sit up to get up from bed without rolling on their side?

Training for aesthetics is at the root of our own minds and desires, but it is not the mirror who has ever made any of us happy, nor the scale for that matter…no! The hidden place where that ‘glow’ comes from, the one that everyone congratulates you for when you’ve been training for months, is inside of us. The fact is we don’t feel better because of the mirror, we feel better internally. We have more energy, and when we spend it, it is renewed in no time. We are active and we are constantly craving more!

These characteristics, this internal happiness you get, not many people get at a big name gym, where you come in, stare at yourself for an hour on the mirror as you pump weights, or run on a treadmill, or do what you do. We have yet to know of many people who go into a Gold’s or an LA Fitness twice a day to workout. Why don’t they? The AC is great, so are the towels, and the showers, and the nice clean machines! But really, why don’t they? On the other end, we have athletes come through the box twice a day all the time. These are not NFL athletes, nor are they high school kids, or even college kids! No! These are mothers of two or three; these middle aged people like you or the next guy or girl.

There is a stimulus, a natural mental and physical agent that is activated when a human being does physical exercise with a purpose. Conventional weight training, and aesthetics driven training usual includes isolation of muscle groups, which does not teach certain muscle groups to work with others. The key to functional training is integration of muscles, where we teach our bodies to work as a unit.

In CrossFit most of the movements do not isolate muscles. Also, most of the time, you should be standing up on your own two feet and supporting your own weight as you go through the movements. This brings about a different level of stimulus for your body, and thus gets it in the shape that you are genetically meant to be at your age.

So do we care about your looks? As CrossFit coaches, hardly! We care about your functional movement, we care about your form, posture, your output during WODs. All this guarantees us, and you as an athlete, that if you put in the work to become a fully functional human being, your body will naturally look the part. No isolation needed, no tricks, or butt smashing machines, just good old fashioned squats, and pushups baby!

So should we train for aesthetics or for function? Well, the answer is obvious – the function brings the natural aesthetics anyways, but aesthetic-driven training doesn’t guarantee function. The stimulus we get from being functional goes a long way, and the kick we get out of a good WOD is more than any amenities we could ever get at a Globo Gym. The next time you come in the Box wanting to see a mirror, remember, it’s all about function. Our challenge shouldn’t be the scale, our challenge should be the skills we acquire at the Box. Can we do a simple sit-up to get out of bed in the morning? Can we pick up ourselves off the floor with a push up? Can we pull ourselves up on a bar if our life depended on it? I don’t know, can you do a bar muscle up yet?

CrossFit is the road less taken, granted, but it is a modality for most if not all individuals. We are blessed to be living at a time when our own well-being is in our own hands. Thank God and let’s WOD.

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