I was at the wedding of a dear friend on the coast this past weekend and saw firsthand three great examples of why general physical ability is so vitally important to our happiness and well-being. It is through functional training that we can prepare ourselves for the more commonplace, day to day rigors of life. When most people hear the word training, they think of preparing for some specific event outside of the realm of normal daily living. This is not the case. To live fully and take advantage of one's potential for good health means being physically able at every step, every day, ready to withstand the physical demands of the world (some pleasurable, some not.) From a mothers' (or fathers') juggling act with babe in arm to factory workers standing for hours on end or hauling heavy equipment; from retired folks swinging golf clubs at the country club to the grandparents playing with their grandkids or navigating icy sidewalks, and everyone and everything in between. We all need to move and to do so optimally we need to do it without pain or ailment or imbalance.
As I said, I was light-heartedly reminded of all this at the wedding. Here are the examples I witnessed:
-Dancing: This joyous activity was really emphasized during the dinner and party, even to the point of scheduled mandatory dances and boogie-downs between courses of the meal. Remarks were made about the amazingly high percentage of participation; it was that impressive. Everyone was out on the dance floor, young and old, and people were really getting down. There's something extremely special about seeing a person in their 70s going wild to Katy Perry's California Girls with a hysterical grin, arms akimbo.
After the main party there was a whole after-party, complete with blaring sound system and laser lights. Top 40 remixes and pulsing electronica ensued and I must say I haven't danced that hard for that long in years. I was in taper mode for a big running race only a week away and was slightly dismayed to feel deeply sore a day or so after the big night. I had been hip flexing and getting funky for hours on end, I forgot what a serious workout it can be!
The myriad pleasures and benefits of dancing cannot be denied by anyone who has really busted loose… Might as well be ready for it.
-Social Recreation/"Recovery" Activities: After a long night of festivities on Friday and, as sometimes happens at weddings, drinking alcoholic beverages, a few people were a little worse for the wear come Saturday morning. How to recover? How to clear the cobwebs and lingering headaches? What to do on those free hours with new friends and acquaintances? People used different tactics to get back on their game, from jogging the coast line and dirt roads and sweating out the toxins to a rigorous touch football game in the sand. A few brave souls went swimming in the glorious waves of the cold, refreshing water. For me, a dip in the ocean was far and away the best tool for revitalization and leaping into the oncoming surf--arms flailing, legs taken out from under me by the foaming waters--was a real treat.
The communal recreation also acted as social lubricant at a wedding where I didn't know most folks beforehand. The shared experience of physical movement and activity provides communication and breeds familiarity and relationships without words. I ran along side an old friend as well as new ones, squeaking in an hours' worth of miles before we were due back for other social obligations. People laughed and jumped off the dunes and dug their toes into the sand. Even with a fuzzy head the simple pleasure of the shared physicality--of breathing the ocean air and moving all about--were inescapable.
-Cradling Babies and Children/Embracing Friends and Loved Ones: We all need to use our arms. Mothers and fathers with new babies know this well, as they witness their biceps and shoulders doubling in size (make sure to switch arms once in a while!) We need to use our arms for innumerable tasks and clearly one of the best uses (if not the best of all time) is in hugging and embracing those we love, from newborns to old timers. I saw a lot of embracing at the wedding--the bride and groom, people on the dance floor, family members greeting each other, old friends reuniting after time apart, parents carrying exhausted little ones to bed--and it was good to see. To hug and hug well we must be strong and grounded individually, our own feet and able legs, ready to give our warm embrace to another being.
I'd say the capability to simply wrap our arms around someone else most definitely is a factor in our overall well-being and inner contentment, but correct me if I'm wrong.
Well, wedding season may be winding down but it's not like you can't think of (literally) a thousand other reasons to get healthy and active and have an able and balanced body in good working order. Seriously, take a second and think about all the applications of functional training in your life. It's a tough world and we need to survive it, whatever may come. So don't just exercise or train for that race down the road or that one dream accomplishment, perched singularly on the horizon. Train to thrive, day in and day out, in addition to all that other stuff…and don't forget to enjoy yourself along the way.
Willie McBride is a native of Chicago, IL but has been living in and exploring the American West since 2000. He attended the Colorado College, majoring in English with a focus on Creative Writing, solidifying his love of writing and his need for mountains. An avid hiker, climber, and trail/ultramarathon runner he now resides in NW Portland, close by the trails of Forest Park. He started a personal/group training and coaching business called Animal Athletics (AnimalAthleticsPDX.com) with fellow ultra runner Yassine Diboun in spring of 2012 and the two provide top-notch services to aspiring outdoor athletes of all abilities.