Functional Training Makes Sense

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Functional training by definition is a style of training that mimics every day movements. It focuses on exercises that are practical and useful to everyday life. This applies to me now more than ever.

“It’s like every time I get focused, something gets in my way.” I’ve had on and off low back pain for almost 10 years. The first time I remember feeling it, as pathetic as it sounds, I leaned down with a rag and stretched my arm out to wipe the baseboard. There was this surging pain, like a throbbing ache that instantly ran down my leg and took the breath right out of me. I never went to the doctor for it. I’d lay on ice, on heat, did some stretching and basically just let it “heal”. Since then, it will flare up every now and then. It’s actually only happened to me once while I was working out. I’ve noticed it usually happens when I’m cleaning. (Mike says that I’m just trying to get out of having to clean…) For example, scrubbing the shower or vacuuming with the hose. Well, the latter was my most recent episode. That was last Tuesday, Valentine’s day. It’s never lingered this long before so my husband forced me to go see the chiropractor. I’ve avoided that like the plague, because honestly the thought of someone cracking my delicate spine and neck terrifies the hell out of me. I went in, he took some X-rays, did an exam and some electro-stimulation which I LOVED. I went back the next day and he told me that my L4 disc is compressed and bulging a bit. The bulging disc is rubbing on my sciatic nerve during certain movements which is what is causing the pain. Over the past couple days, he did a few adjustments and *knock on wood* I’m already starting to get some relief. I’m going to see him 3 times a week for the next month. He says he has had great success with this very issue with many clients so I’m hopeful. It’s not very easy being a personal trainer that can’t demonstrate exercises…

I always knew it was a disc issue, I just wasn’t sure if it was bulging, slipped or herniated. It’s kind nice to finally have an answer. This isn’t a pain I would wish on anyone. I haven’t been sleeping, I can’t find a comfortable position to sit, stand or sleep in. It’s hard to focus and I’ve been popping Advil like crazy. I hate taking that much of anything. It’s affecting my profession. I can’t demonstrate certain exercise or even get my clients set up or pick up after them. They’ve all been so wonderful and so understanding. I keep telling them they’re spoiling me! I just love them.

All of this kind of feels like an answer to something I’ve been struggling with and thinking about for about a year now. When I first got into “lifting”, I became hooked pretty quickly. It became an obsession with wanting to see what my body could do.

I’ve always been strong, relatively speaking. Even when I wasn’t working out, I was able to lift and do things a lot of girls I knew, couldn’t. I think I was so taken by it because it was something that I excelled at. I never really had anything like that before. I want to say it was about a year and a half ago, that I was able to squat and deadlift 225lbs, bench 135lbs, and shoulder press 50 lb. dumbbells. I was KILLING it. I loved it.

The day that I felt my sciatic pain spike during a dead lift was pretty soon after I set my personal records. It was debilitating. I quit dead lifts for about 6 months. I think my body was capable of doing them again sooner than that, but my mind was telling me I couldn’t (and shouldn’t). My squat record never surpassed 225, I had developed a mental barrier. I couldn’t stomach putting that much of a load on my already injured spine. It was at this point that I stepped back from heavy lifting. My workouts started to suffer because I didn’t have that passion, I couldn’t lift what I had previously been able to and it was devastating. I knew that I had to get back into working out consistently, especially as I was studying to be a personal trainer. It felt good to be back but it just wasn’t the same.

Ever since then, I’ve been flirting with the thought of getting back to where I was. That is, until last Tuesday. It’s occurred to me that no matter how much time I give it, this injury will always be with me. I’ll never be able to allow myself to lift that much weight again. I know some of you may be thinking that my personal records aren’t even that much, but they were FOR ME. I was so proud. I watch some girls, whether in the gym or on Instagram that are squatting/deadlifting 300+ pounds, and they’re doing it well. I was never able to get there, but I have tons of respect and admiration for those of you that have.

So, after this realization, I started thinking… Just because I can no longer excel at heavy lifting, doesn’t mean I can’t find a new route. I’m not going to stop working out; I’m just going to change my approach.

We did the Warrior Dash a few weekends ago. It was a blast! Definitely difficult, at least the running part was, but it was really fun. We were contemplating doing the Savage Race in March, but realized we already have obligations that weekend. I was talking to one of the members at my gym, John, who has completed 24 mud runs, including savage race, battlefrog, tough mudder, etc.. I’ve watched him workout before, and honestly he looks like he really enjoys it. It’s a different kind of workout. He does A LOT of cardio, something the Warrior Dash proved to me that I need to work on LOL. He also does a lot of functional training that mimics a majority of the obstacles you’d run into on a mud run.

My wheels were turning. Having something to train for was extremely motivating. I enjoyed preparing for the Warrior Dash. I wasn’t just going through the motions. While I can’t afford to run off and join a crossfit gym, I CAN put together my own workouts. Heck, I AM a personal trainer after all. John said they do 2 Savage races per year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. I have my eye on that Fall race.

Here’s my plan: We’ve already been dieting for a week now. I’ve been at around a 300 calorie deficit every day. I’ve been drinking tons of water. I haven’t been able to workout this past week, but I’m going to pick up some light exercise this coming week, assuming my pain keeps subsiding. Like I was saying, I’m going to focus on functional training. This would include things like chin-ups (obviously), push ups, lunges, squats, etc… The Warrior Dash also helped me realize that I still need to work on my cardio health. I didn’t do bad, but I know I could do better. It’s important to switch that up too. Use different modalities… treadmill, stepper, bike; keep it functional! I’m going to figure this out and work through it!

I guess the message I’m trying to send is just because something gets in your way, DOES NOT mean you quit. If it means that much to you, work for it. There are going to be bumps in the road to anything worthwhile, you just have to roll with it. You can get angry, upset and feel sorry for yourself for a little while, but then you need to pick yourself up and do what you have to do. Find what makes you happy, and go get it. However, you also need to keep in mind, that “mind over matter” doesn’t always apply. You can’t just muscle through everything (cough- Erin- cough). Sometimes you need to listen to your mind. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. While I loved the thrill of lifting heavy weight, it’s not worth risking my long term health. I’m only 26 years old. I’m not willing to risk my quality of life.

I’m going to do progress update posts periodically. I’m 5’ 7. My goal is to get back to 135 lbs. at around 19% body fat (I haven’t been there since June 2015) In other words, it’s been a minute. The last time I weighed myself, I was flirting with 150. Yeah, 150. 149.6 to be exact. I haven’t measured my body fat, but I’d imagine it’s up a few percent. My first goal is just to feel better. It’s hard to focus on anything else right now, but I have to start somewhere. Here’s some before pictures to leave you with:

IMG_1784 FullSizeRender (4)before pictures






It is, what it is. Time to move forward.

Until next time…


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I'm an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist. I worked in a gym setting back in Florida for over 2 years, training one-on-one clients and leading group fitness classes. I absolutely loved it, but once we moved across the country to Colorado, I decided to take the opportunity to pursue a slightly different career! My obsession with exercise and love for writing collided, which is how I became a fitness lifestyle writer.

1 Comment

  1. David Pitruzzello

    February 26, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Love it Erin ! I love the idea of functional training. I need to look into that also! Keep up the great work!

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