PUMPING IRONY: Formless Function

My Friday workout felt hasty and ill-conceived, sort of a circuit-training approach without the “training” part, as I wandered from treadmill to ab-cruncher to lat pull-down to chest press, etc., etc. — all crammed into about 60 minutes of low-energy grunting (I really need 90 minutes to do this right). Part of the problem was… Read more »

My Friday workout felt hasty and ill-conceived, sort of a circuit-training approach without the “training” part, as I wandered from treadmill to ab-cruncher to lat pull-down to chest press, etc., etc. — all crammed into about 60 minutes of low-energy grunting (I really need 90 minutes to do this right).

Part of the problem was that I was still a little sore from Wednesday’s high-energy workout, and I didn’t want to hurt myself. I have a meeting tonight, so I think it’s going to be a Tuesday-Thursday schedule this week, which suits me just fine.

I did walk to work this morning, so I managed to get 35 minutes of low-impact, bone-strengthening cardio into my day. This on the heels of a “non-workout” weekend that included a 90-minute hike through the Mississippi River gorge with a couple dozen amateur geologists (including my lovely wife), my annual mid-May trip to the cursing driving range (I have the blisters to prove it), the first lawn-mowing of the spring (long grass and a reel mower make for good cardio and resistance training), and a heroic wrestling match with a garden hose and an extension ladder, during which I managed to clean out my gutters and downspouts without falling to my death (R.I.P. Max McGee).

My lovely wife, by the way, trumped all of this activity on Mother’s day by climbing on her bicycle and pedaling 13.5 miles into a nasty north wind to visit her mother in Roseville — and then she rode all the way back home. That’s 27 miles, I reminded myself as I sipped a glass of cabernet and perused the latest issue of Utne Reader over lunch. (I did cook dinner, by the way. And washed the dishes.)

This all had me reconsidering my earlier assertion about having no fitness goals.

In fact, the best reason for hitting the gym two or three times a week is because I want to be able to haul out the extension ladder every spring to clean out the gutters and I want to be able to mow the lawn and ride my bicycle and carry wet laundry out to the line in the summer and chase grandchildren around the yard (though I’m in no hurry for that. . . really, kids. . . . take your time). This is called functional fitness, a concept designed to enhance the ability of geezers like myself to remain upright and reasonably useful in our old age.

Of course, if I really want to pursue this approach, I’m probably going to have to be more strategic about my gym workout. As Gina Shaw points out in this WebMD piece, just cranking away on some resistance machine doesn’t actually work your body in a way that will be particularly helpful to your long-term functionality. In my case, all the lifting I’ve been doing has been working isolated muscle groups, which might make me feel stronger (and look less flabby), but it does little to strengthen the integrated muscle groups that we use to lift or reach or bend or squat during the course of our normal day.

At some level, I’m happy to learn of this approach, even though it will ultimately force me to ask a personal trainer about a new regimen, which to me is akin to pulling over at a gas station when I’m hopelessly lost and asking directions. It’s just not something guys like me do.

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