Functional Movement’s Big 3 Surprises

by Alice Dommert
November 5, 2019
Functional Movement, Wholebeing

A Big Anniversary

Recently, I celebrated a one year anniversary. It was a personal landmark for me and delivered some very unexpected challenges and surprises along the way. Hitting this mark was something that had been on my mind for over 5 years. I wanted to join CrossFit yet even the idea of it, at first, scared me.

At some point in time, we all have that moment. Our body is not feeling good. We have not been paying attention as much as we want to about how we are moving, how much we are moving and the quality of the fuel we are using to nourish our body machine.

At that moment our minds have a feast and it’s a real test. Many times I had given in to my own harsh opinion that, well, it’s too late. That inner voice screamed at me. “Your knees have run too many miles already, your hip is hurting, you can’t get stronger, and have you checked your license and birth date lately, hmmm…CrossFit at this point in your life, Alice, REALLY????”

Was it Really Too Late?

That line of thinking did not feel good. I was in relatively good shape. Yes,  a few things were hurting but I could see in the research I did and in some of the people I knew it was NOT too late.

My recent anniversary was celebrating my one year of CrossFit Training and I have never felt better. To say I had no idea of the benefits and surprises in store for me when I walked into CrossFit MFP for the first time would be a grand understatement. I want to share my three big surprises but first I want to introduce you to what CrossFit really is. My intention is not to convince you to join CrossFit, it’s to share the core of what functional movement is all about.

I recently had a conversation with Marco Dapkey, my CrossFit coach, to learn exactly what was happening behind the scenes this past year in my training. I asked Marco to first define functional movement.

“Functional movement is about looking at your body as the ‘machine’. Through our day-to-day movements optimally you are using your body as one single unit to complete your daily tasks like picking things up (groceries, children, furniture), squatting, running around and putting things over your head without any struggle.”

I had never thought about moving in that way and it led me to my first big surprise.

#1 Range of Motion Matters

For me, like most people, in my day-to-day living, even with a regular yoga practice and some cardio activities, my range of motion was suffering. I was active but was not positively stressing my body in the right ways to keep a healthy range of motion. In functional movement, jumping and simply hanging from a bar are big determinants of your level of fitness.

When I began CrossFit my arms hurt, sort of a mysterious pain in my upper biceps, even when I did not work out. My hips both took turns being “special” with assorted pains so I was not able to run. I was working out at the gym lifting weights to get stronger and that helped but the machines are very focused on single muscle groups and were not serving my need for variety and using my body as one unit.

Those first times hanging on the bar and jumping onto a box were HARD, really hard. With my consistent training, I have been shocked about how much more flexible I have become and no more arm or hip pain. I stuck with 3 days a week attending the 1 hour class for the first 9moths then increased to 5-6 days per week. And I even ran a 5 K recently with no additional training.

#2 Training for Life

I certainly expected to get more fit and to get stronger. In yoga, we talk about allowing that safe space on your mat to be the place to explore what’s going on in your body and in your mind. For years I have traveled many miles while on my mat training my body, mind and breath. It never occurred to me that this new range of movements; burpees, chin-ups, bear crawls and carrying sandbags and my big one, the hang clean snatch would trigger such a new level of fear and the opportunity to develop my mental resilience even further. Marco describes it so well.

“ When it comes to functional fitness it is about learning how to strengthen and condition your body to be PREPARED FOR LIFE. Functional fitness will do more than just make you stronger and more durable. It is about building CONFIDENCE to be able to handle whatever life throws at you.

Most of the time people are scared because they experience pains and aches in their low back, hips, knees and shoulders. This is just a byproduct of their lifestyle or previous experiences. This lowers their confidence and thus creates a cycle of no physical activity. In addition, there is no guidance for people to understand how to strengthen their total body as one.

The best thing about functional movement is that it is an EASY fix for 90% of your physical problems. You will learn how to re-align and re-strengthen your body to feel healthier and fitter once again, or maybe the first time in your life.”

With the huge help of Marco (and please note, a fantastic Coach is key here) I have learned to be brave and to try new things. I have learned how to safely and effectively make progress within my level.

And that brings me to my third and biggest surprise.

#3 Functional Movement is FUN and Priming your Brain for the Day

I get bored easily. I would get to the gym and do my time but it took a lot of willpower and it was a solitary task. At CrossFit and with most functional movement training the key is a wide range of activities to work the entire body. So it is efficient. You have to tap into a lot of different muscles to jump!

When there was a movement I didn’t like, no worries, we rotated through different movements every day. By the time that movement came around again, boom I had new strength and it was easier. Also, you keep challenging yourself as you work with partners and you cheer each other on. Even when I was not hitting a personal best in a workout, it was super exciting to watch a friend do their first pullup. It was so inspiring and made me more determined to keep working.

One day recently, I realized my daily one hour of functional movement feels like a bunch of big kids getting together to try some crazy physical things before breakfast. AND we are also priming out brains for the day’s work. Studies show that exercise is ‘miracle grow’ for your brain. Doing it first thing in the morning is even better and it also is a boost for mood and helps keep conditions like anxiety and depression at bay.

So functional movement has had a such a big impression on me, I invited Marco to be part of our upcoming TRAIN TO THRIVE Wholebeing Journey to Costa Rica next May. He is one of the very best Coaches I have experienced to date.  Come join us!


Alice Dommert

Alice Dommert

Founder, Wholebeing Architect

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