Functional fitness helps everyone perform better

An instructor oversees a Gyrotonics workout at A Body of Work Photos: a body of work

We all know that athletes do specialized workouts to help them perform better in their individual sports. The rest of us tend to work out to stay fit, manage stress, and maintain our weight. But what we may be missing is specific training that can aid us in performing commonplace tasks, whether it’s carrying in groceries bags from the car, lifting a toddler, or even playing a seemingly simple sport like golf.

Enter functional fitness, a term that has its origins in rehabilitation. Physical therapists have long worked with clients by developing a customized training routine that helps them regain the ability to perform the way they did before an injury. Functional fitness uses exercise to help develop muscles in an integrated way with a focus on stability, strength, and stretching, all personalized to meet an individual’s needs. According to a recent story on CNN Health, functional fitness ranked eighth on the American College of Sports Medicine’s list of the top 2013 fitness trends.

Many personal trainers and group exercise classes at gyms now incorporate functional fitness into their workouts. For example, when you do a squat combined with bicep curls using free weights, you’re using the same muscles you would use to bend down and pick up a five-pound bag of dog food or a full laundry basket. While core, or mid-section strength, is key, functional fitness targets all the major muscle groups and joints we use every day like elbows, spine, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.

According to Ronan Lennon, a personal trainer at the A Body of Work studio in the Presidio who has been training clients of all ages for 23 years using functional fitness, exercise should be specific to whatever a client is trying to achieve. “Usually I help people whose muscles are short and tight stretch first to improve posture, adding on stability whether on a balance board or a Bosu, and then move to strengthening exercises and core work. Right now I have several clients who ride horseback, and they need workouts that provide a lot of stability and coordination.”

Jean Sullivan, owner of A Body of Work, says that the studio focuses on functional fitness by working with clients on primary movement patterns with special attention to posture and alignment. Classes and personal instruction in Pilates, yoga, and Gyrotronics — an exercise program composed of spiraling, circular movements and breath based on specialized equipment that stretches joints, connective tissue, and muscles — are used to help meet fitness goals whether the client is a golfer, a tennis player or just someone who wants to become more fit.

“We design an individualized program for each person who walks in, and functional fitness is woven in to fit a person’s goals for movement, strength, flexibility, and motor skills. And as their fitness level or needs change, we tailor the program to meet their needs,” says Sullivan. The studio offers both one-on-one training and group exercise classes.

So the next time you’re at the gym, ask a trainer about functional fitness options, or stop by for a free evaluation at A Body of Work. And go ahead, bring in those heavy bags from the grocery store, no problem.

A Body of Work: 569 Ruger Street, 415-561-3991,

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