Vail Daily health column: Three fitness ‘F’ words | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily health column: Three fitness ‘F’ words

Brendan Finneran

Whether we find ourselves standing on skis, a snowboard, snowshoes or skins, the winter season always lures us back to the snow. Rarely do we take a moment to evaluate the training we put in prior to hitting the slopes, but by examining a simple exercise called the reverse lunge, we can assess whether or not we did enough to prepare. Taking a sharper look at this one movement also helps to identify the three “F” words of fitness: Form, function and fun.

First, let’s define the three fitness “F” words.

• Form is how we align our body when performing a specific task. It speaks greatly to where we have strengths or limitations. When our form is focused on moving with intention and control, our strengths are enhanced and our limiters become a valued asset.

• Function is the way we apply exercises to an outdoor pursuit. For instance, gym exercises are meant to mimic the demands of a sport you are active in. This builds a platform of movement that can be repeated when you are engaging in your sport. Over time, function becomes so in tune with your body that it feels like second nature.

• And fun, of course, is the opportunity to challenge and surprise yourself. Fun can sometimes take a back seat to performance, and while having a solid performance enhances the fun factor, it should not be the basis of what motivates us.

Breaking down the reverse lunge exercise clarifies how the three F’s of fitness correlate. Start by standing tall with your feet together. Then stride your right foot back four to five feet and begin to soften the right knee to hover over the floor. Extend your right arm alongside your ear, keeping your left hand on your hip. Hold for just a moment, then firmly press through your left heel as you step your right foot up, standing tall with your hands back by your hips.

What’s the Point?

You might be asking, “What does this exercise do?” It helps establish balance and strength between left and right legs. It builds flexibility through our hips and it works the range of motion in the upper body. To complete one full round of the reverse lunge, alternate so you step back six to eight times with each leg. The next progression is to step just the right foot back for eight to 10 repetitions before switching sides.

In a reverse lunge, form is a crucial factor. To get the maximum benefit from this exercise, one must think about keeping a neutral spine (not learning back or forward), extending the top arm up without pinching in the neck, and creating depth and stability in the bent knees. Working these keys aspects of form helps to align the body anatomically and creates awareness while doing the exercise.

The function of the reverse lunge can be applied to the stride of a hiker while skinning or hiking uphill. When we stride with the left foot forward, we drive the stride by pulling from the left heel to bring the right leg up and through. Doing the reverse lunge exercise in the gym creates balance, strength and stability that easily applies to the activity of hiking outside. Practicing form where the front knee stays stacked over the ankle and the torso stays vertical enhances range of motion and also helps to create drive for our pole plants when moving up the hill.

The fun aspect starts when we engage in any physical pursuit. Give yourself positive feedback for exercising and remember that all your efforts are rewarded! Active pursuits are meant to challenge you and when your hard work is behind you, reflect on where you started and where you are going. Now there is only one thing left to do … smile.

Brendan Finneran is a personal trainer, yoga instructor and cycling coach at Dogma Athletica in The Riverwalk at Edwards. Email comments about this column to cschnell@vaildaily.com.