Have you ever tried carrying groceries from the store to your apartment and high-key feel like your arms are going to fall off, even though it's just a couple of blocks? Same, girl. Even if you work out on the reg, if you're not including functional fitness exercises in your routine, there may be parts of your body that aren't strong enough to help you carry out normal day-to-day activities. There are so many benefits to practicing functional fitness in your daily routine, one of which is, yes, being able to transport all your favorite goods (read: copious amounts of cookie butter) from Trader Joe's without feeling like you're going to die before you make it up to your apartment.
According to Amanda Sterczyk, a certified personal trainer and creator of The Move More Institute, functional fitness isn't just a way to approach your workout routine; it's "the key to living well — without injury or pain," she says.
"Can you hold a plank for two minutes? Great! Now, can you get up off the floor after that plank? No? That’s a problem," Sterczyk tells Elite Daily. Called. Out. TBH, I feel extremely seen right now.
In case you're not sure what I'm even talking about, functional fitness is when you use your workout time to improve the overall quality of your life, rather than as a means to achieve purely aesthetic goals.
"Functional fitness helps to answer the question: Do you live to exercise or exercise to live?" Sterczyk says. You might not always think about yourself or your body from this perspective, but according to Sterczyk, your body really is a brilliant machine that is designed to move in all sorts of amazing ways. Think about it: In day-to-day life, you twist, turn, bend, reach, lift, and so much more. You might expect your body to be able to move every which way, without pain or having to worry about proper alignment, but when that's not the case, Sterczyk says, functional fitness can help.
One of the best benefits of functional fitness, the personal trainer explains, is being able to take on physically demanding tasks at a moment’s notice, without negative bodily repercussions like a back-ache after lifting your suitcase, or shoulder pain after a trip to the grocery store. "If all of your muscles are flexible and strong, they’re all fulfilling their intended roles, and you operate like a finely-tuned machine," Stercyzk tells Elite Daily. "If there’s a muscular imbalance, other muscles have to pick up the slack and the entire system is out of whack."
To help you understand, Stercyzk uses the example of an assembly line in which one worker isn’t pulling their weight, so the other workers have to double their efforts until they reach a breaking point, and soon, the entire system breaks down. This is basically the path your body might go down without functional fitness — in other words, you'll probably start to notice your muscles are a bit more injury-prone than they used to be when you were young and ~nimble~.
So how do you incorporate functional fitness into your daily routine? Rest assured, it's actually a lot easier than you think.
Well, you should start by moving with purpose during your workouts, Sterczyk suggests, rather than simply going through the motions of each exercise. "Think about a squat: It is a multi-joint exercise that is training the act of sit-to-stand — a movement we do dozens of times every single day," the personal trainer tells Elite Daily. "And it allows you to be in control of your body as you lower yourself (don’t let gravity do it for you!) and lift yourself from a seat, whether it’s a recliner, a toilet, your car, or your office chair."
To that point, Sterczyk adds, most people "drop" into chairs when they sit down, and then "heave ho" to get themselves standing again, which the personal trainer says is a big no-no. Again, I feel very, very seen right now — but, moving on.
Besides adding lots of squats to your workouts, Stercyzk says another great example of a functional fitness exercise is a move called the "farmer's walk."
If you master this bad boy, you'll be carrying your groceries like a pro in no time, fam. All the cookie butter beckons, friends.
Another effective functional move, according to Stercyzk, is the "suitcase carry." TBH, I think this one speaks for itself.
Picture yourself running through an airport carrying a 10-pound piece of luggage, and low-key tipping over every 12 seconds because your core can't help stabilize your body. The suitcase-carry workout will remedy all of your airport struggles, my friend (well, besides the sh*tty plane food — that's probably a lost cause).
And if you've ever deadlifted before, Stercyzk says this functional workout should definitely have a place in your workout routine.
"Use your legs not your back to lift”, Stercyzk advises. "[This will help with] things like picking up kids and moving boxes."
So there you have it. You may have already been doing some of these functional workouts in your routine without even realizing it, so give yourself a pat on the back and know that your body will thank you in the long run. And if you're just getting started with functional fitness, know that your day-to-day activities are about to get a whole lot easier, all thanks to moving with purpose and using your workouts to train for life.