Functional Fitness Finesse

There is much talk in the fitness world about functional fitness.

Living in our village running our health and fitness retreats has been the wake up call I needed. I have reframed ideas on my health, with mobility and agility being top of the list. I want to be able to run up and down stairs without the use of a handrail; lift my bag down from the overhead locker without rearranging my neck, have no need for chairs; leap up to reach high things; trek lightly; have no fear of narrow uneven paths at heights; move effortlessly and have knees that are intact, free from the surgeon’s knife.

I only have to look around my village to find the motivation to put this into action.

functional fitness at its best

functional fitness at its best

Women walking barefoot, up a muddy steep track carrying a 30kg basket of grass or sack of rice on their heads is everyday life in our village. Hours spent with bent back planting rice, climbing a coconut tree is no mean feat and swinging a hoe from morning until dusk is relentless work.

crushing fresh spices in a mortar and pestle … works up a sweat

crushing fresh spices in a mortar and pestle … works up a sweat

The village kitchen is also a hard working place – squatting down to cook over the fire, coconuts opened with machetes, constant fluid arm movements crushing the spices in the mortar and pestle. No labour saving devices such as the mighty thermomix in sight.

no comfy chairs… the Balinese make squatting look effortless and relaxing

no comfy chairs… the Balinese make squatting look effortless and relaxing

Then there are the relaxed moves…. groups of men squatting down, arms wrapped around knees, gossiping at the end of the day; kneeling or sitting cross legged during temple ceremonies. There is a marked absence of overstuffed comfy chairs and sofas.

Now this is not typical daily life for everyone. Daily commutes to desk/computer laden offices is more the norm. OHS policies ensure that there is a handrail, perfect surfaces, lifts, and more warnings and rules than one can imagine preventing us from making any “dangerous” moves.

Doing a session with Lesley O’Donoghue at Sharing Bali challenges my balance and agility. I asked Lesley for her top 3 moves that anyone could do anytime, anywhere and how they make a difference to every day life.

“I’m a big fan of functional training. Exercising in a way that mimics our daily movements just makes so much sense.”

1. A basic squat is a great functional movement pattern and a great butt shaper. It’s the same movement we do every time we sit down and stand up. Good squat technique will use a combination of your core, glutes (butt muscles) and thighs, making them a great hip, thigh and butt-shaping exercise. Add in some dumbbells with your squat and you’ll turn it into a pretty good full body exercise.

2. My clients swear that their push-ups are responsible for giving them an au naturel boob lift so that would have to make them functional and popular! Push-ups work the chest, arms, shoulders and abs. This exercise mimics pushing movements and when done correctly with the full combination of muscles working they’re a great ab exercise too.

3. The pulling motion of a bentover row helps to improve your posture and tone up tuckshop arms; you know the back of the arm that keeps on waving after you’ve stopped? Back, triceps and abs make up the team of muscles at work here. Think of pulling a door open or lifting heavy shopping bags into the car; that’s functionality of the bentover row at work. Place your left knee and left hand on a bench or similar stable surface. With a weight in your right hand and abs braced, lift the weight straight up to your chest, aiming the elbow high. Lower down to start position. Do a set with both arms.

It’s no secret that Lesley loves to dance, so I had to ask for her best functional fitness tip to loosen up the inner dancer in us all…

“It’s true, something happens to me when I hear music and it makes me want to dance. ‘Move your body and change your mood’, definitely happens through the joy of dance.”

Left and right sumo squats are great for making you fitter and stronger when you’re preparing to bust a move. Have you seen how a sumo wrestler steps his legs wide and squats down? Well that’s the basis of the move. Start by standing with feet together. Step your right leg to the right side so your legs are wide, squat down and up, return your right leg back to the start position. Step your left leg to the left side, squat down and up, return your left leg back to the start position. Keep repeating to the right and left for 10-20 reps, depending on your strength level.

You may not want to use this exact move when you’re on the dance floor, (unless you want to clear it), but making this part of your pre-dance floor fitness regime will have your legs strong enough to dance the night away and still be able to walk the next morning.”

Lesley O'Donoghue at work at Sharing Bali

Lesley O’Donoghue at work at Sharing Bali

Lesley will be back at Sharing Bali with her “Body & Soul Retreat for Women” Oct 18 – 23. Be prepared for fat melting fun in disguise as Functional Fitness Finesse.


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