Are You Gym Fit or Life Fit? Here’s Why it Matters.

Is your body not what it used to be?

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You work for a large company. Like many of us, you sit at a desk for much of the workday.  Whether you are in a meeting or at your computer or on a plane, you remain seated with your spine typically curved toward your computer and your head is pushing forward.

This is a common posture for people who work in offices, which is why you may be experiencing back pain, your neck is sore and your posture is getting worse. You go to a gym to counteract this, where your routine includes spinning, rowing, treadmill runs, weight lifting and crunches. For all this work, you still face back and joint pain.

Sound familiar?  We spend most of our time seated at the office, driving, on a train, looking at our laptop, and watching TV.  The problem is we are now exercising while still sitting down, sometimes in the exact position we were in all day and we are still in the same plane of motion – forward and back. 

When you exercise using common gym routines and machines, you’re likely to get all the side effects that come with that kind of training—soreness, joint aches, and stiffness.  You want functional strength, balance, coordination, speed, power, and the ability to move in any direction.  If you can walk you are an athlete and so you need to train like one.  This doesn’t mean getting ready for “the big game” but getting ready to live and do the things you want.

When the body moves and when you start moving in your weekly exercise program correctly, your body will change.  Pain will go away.  You will feel and look younger.

There are five aspects that you must include in your weekly exercise program. They are: your core, tri-plane movement, momentum, mobility, and agility. Let’s take a look at all five and examine how they come into play throughout your day.

Core.    It doesn’t matter what gym it is, you see people lying on their back doing 100’s of sit-ups, crunches, Russian twists and the bicycle.  If this is what you are doing then you are spending your time teaching and training your abs to do something completely opposite of what they are supposed to do.

 The role of the abs as part of the kinetic chain is to protect the lower back from moving too far in any direction.  The abs are stabilizers, not movers.  You must train your core from a standing position.  The abs are the only connecting link between your upper and lower body.  Therefore, your arms and legs need to be involved in ab training to make sure the abs are being attacked from the top and bottom.

Tri-plane movement.  A body that exercises in one plane loses the ability to move in other planes.  The key to staying flexible and strong is to train in multiple planes of motion.  Your body is meant to move in three directions: forward and back, side-to-side and rotationally.  The most powerful movement in the human body is rotation and most people never train it.  Rotation is the key to moving well at any age. There is a difference between rotation and twisting.  Twisting is rotation without using your whole body, especially your hips.  Twisting will crush your lower back and knees, but true rotation will not.

Every sport has rotation. Think about the golfer who’s 5’2” and can drive the ball 300 yards, or the tennis player who can unleash backhands.  How do they do it?  Rotation.  Every natural action your body makes involves rotation. You must train with rotation or you will lose the ability as you get older.

Momentum. The human body must be able to control its own momentum, which means developing the the ability to stop and change direction.  Whether jumping out of the way of danger or slipping on the ice, you need to be able to control momentum.  You need to be able to slow yourself down and change direction when needed.

Mobility.  To fight the aging clock, work on mobility.  You need to be able to move freely in all three planes with confidence and without pain.  As you get older and your joints get stiffer, mobility becomes even more important. You must include mobility in every workout.  Most people are stuck on getting a body that looks good versus moving and feeling good first. 

Agility.  We use agility to move quickly and to regain our balance. If you don’t want to lose it, you need to train for agility.  It could be for a sport, to avoid a fall or to play with your grandkids when you’re older.  The more agile you are the better balance you will have.  And the better balance you have the less chance of getting hurt when that unexpected action happens. 

Too many workouts avoid these five key elements. Spinning works up a sweat, but you sit most of the class, just like you sit in the office. You hunch over the bike with poor posture just as you hunch over your computer. You’re not moving; your feet never even touch the ground. Lifting weights feels right but guess what: You’re still just sitting. You sit to do curls, leg presses, lat pulls and many others. You work hard but you’re still sitting and still in the same plane of motion you were in all day, forward and back. Maybe you add deadlifts or squats or the popular weighted hip thrusts. Great exercises except there are no changes of movement from during the day. It’s still straight ahead and up and down.

Perhaps you have tried all these exercises. You are proud of your intensity but your back still aches and there is discomfort in many of your  joints.  Your workout helps your mind, but it’s harming your body and making your pain worse.  It doesn’t have to be like this.

Is your body not what is used to be?

Start focusing on movement and not body parts.

In short, you can be gym fit—like most people and still have those annoying aches and pains you thought were just part of the aging process.  Or you can be life fit—and look and more importantly move and feel great.

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