Everyone needs to maintain a baseline of daily physical activity for better health. It all counts, especially when you’re coming from a mostly sedentary lifestyle.
The growing public awareness and interest in an active and healthy lifestyle is encouraging. But people often want to skip steps and jump ahead to the results they visualize.
We make unrealistic fitness-related resolutions and slip back into old ways as motivation inevitably fades. Newbies try to run marathons, hike up mountains, or do CrossFit, even though we barely have the stamina to get through a day of work or household chores.
It’s easy to underestimate the complexity of movement when your body has fallen into disuse. You can’t just get into a sport or start a specific kind of workout without grasping the functional movements involved.
Likewise, form matters even in the most basic activities. Walk around with poor posture or improper gait, and you’ll be seeing a foot expert for treatment sooner than later.
Clearly, beginners need to combine an enthusiasm for exercise with these essentials: function and form.
Start functional training
Different sports will require athletes to practice specific movements. In soccer, for instance, players will repeatedly drill their footwork and passing.
Even unrelated exercises, such as conditioning and strength workouts done in the gym rather than on the pitch, serve an obvious function. They improve upper-body strength and thus a player’s ability to jostle with others for position.
If you’ve played some sports in the past and want to get back into the game in some way, you can probably relate various exercises to their practical application. But for many people, that’s not the case. They hit the gym and work at various machines without really thinking of how that training matters in life.
Visualization matters because it’s easier to engage all the muscles that matter when your mind can think of doing a familiar task. And it also helps with motivation. You stop seeing the workout as merely a calorie-burning period of discomfort because you see how it makes you better at doing something.
That something could be doing household repairs, carrying the laundry, or playing with your kids. Practice functional training, and you can get stronger for a purpose.
Improve your biomechanics
For tennis players, the serve is probably the single most important motion they practice. It can even be a liability for the top players in the world.
In 2020 Novak Djokovic disclosed that, despite having won the third-most Grand Slam titles in men’s tennis at the time, he nevertheless had retooled his service motion. It was causing wear and tear, leading to injury. The changes made him more comfortable and even more effective at winning points on his serve.
Performance in sport is strongly linked to having good biomechanics. But paying attention to your form isn’t just limited to professional athletes or even weekend warriors.
The way you execute movements in your workout may not affect a competitive game’s outcome. You might not be chasing personal records.
But it will greatly reduce your risk of suffering injuries, such as joint damage, muscle tears and strains, or sprains. It will also maximize the benefits of your training, building strength, flexibility, and self-esteem.
In that sense, the stakes are high. Watching your form has to be just as integral to your exercise as the function itself.
Making the adjustments
If you’re serious about training and can afford to invest more into it, a personal trainer is the way to go. They have trained extensively in the understanding of biomechanics and can diagnose issues in form and movement. And, of course, they can hold you accountable for consistency and effort.
But there are steps everyone can do to improve on their own. One of them is changing our approach towards training. Instead of focusing on speed, weight, or the number of reps, keep each exercise slow and concentrate on working through the full range of motion.
Instead of sticking to one type of exercise, going through the same routine, or playing a single sport, we can inject some variety. Most sports don’t place equal emphasis on the different muscle groups. The same is true of many workouts.
Don’t just run or lift weights. Try doing yoga, swimming, or wall climbing. Try playing team sports if you’ve mostly been exercising on your own. Exposure to a greater variety of movements, along with paying attention to the biomechanics involved, will make you better at exercise overall.
Finally, get the people in your life more involved in your routines. Family, friends, or co-workers can all become workout buddies. They will reinforce the functionality of your exercise and keep you motivated along the way.