How to Be Functionally Fit at Every Age
The importance of an aligned and functional body is crucial whether you are eighteen or eighty. Three generations of women test their fitness level with Elev8d director Brian Bradley.
Brian Bradley, Fitness Director of Elev8d, is a long-time friend and neighbor of the Sundberg family. So the Sundbergs aren’t new to the fitness guru’s expertise and guidance. “We’ve known Brian for fourteen years. He’s like a second father to my kids,” says mom, Kara. Today, three generations of Sundberg women—daughters Bella (14), and Evalina (12), mom, Kara and Grandma, Francie—gather in the living room of their southern California home for an Elev8d workout.
Brian has gathered these women to make a single, important point about fitness: “It’s not about intensity. It’s about posture,” he says. “Whether you are twelve (he points at Evalina) or eighty (he nods at Francie), you can be functionally fit.”
All three generations are quite active yet their bodies are not operating with full range of motion. Grandma Francie does tai chi and plays pickleball but complains of stiffness. “If I sit for a long period of time, I have a hard time getting up because my knees turn into bricks.”
Kara played college tennis and is now an active mom of three. Daughters Bella and Evalina play sports all year-round. “My girls have been playing competitive sports at a really high level,” explains Kara. “They have a single sport lifestyle and they’re setting themselves up for overtraining and injuries.”
Functional fitness, or functionality, Brain explains, is being able to do any movement in good form. “It’s strengthening your muscles by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.” The idea is that your body can move easily, and with full range of motion, in a variety of different movements and directions.
Brian’s first ask is simple: touch your toes. All four women hinge at the waist and reach for the floor.
Evalina makes a half-hearted attempt and then confesses that she’s never been able to touch her toes before. Brian happily accepts this challenge.
As they move through the first workout, the four women giggling and compare ability and posture. It’s obvious that they’re having a lot of fun. Mom, Kara, struggles the most with the the Crunch to Hip Bridge. “My natural inclination is to rush but this is really making me slow down and think about my feet, my hands, my elbows.” And that’s the point. Elev8d exercises or low-intensity, meant to align the body so that it becomes more efficient.
At the end of the 8-minute workout, Brian asks Evalina to try touching her toes again. She does so easily and then stands back up—astonished. This gets everyone’s attention.
For Evalina and Bella, correct posture at an early age will create a foundation of functional fitness. “It’s not much time out of our day. Eight minutes four times a week—that’s 32 minutes. So why not? Just watching Evalina improve her flexibility in such a short period of time is huge,” she marvels.
Grandma, Francie, is particularly focused on form. Throughout both workouts Brian used her as an example for her daughter and granddaughters. Even during the highest intensity exercise, Finish Line Abs, Francie keeps pace with the younger generations. The major draw for Francie is commitment and time. “I like that it’s something I can do easily without having any equipment,” she says. “If I forget, I can just do it before bed!”
And that’s Brian’s point. Everyone can use Elev8d to improve their health and fitness, from active teens to retired seniors.
Here is a sample workout from Brian’s session with the Sundbergs.
Workout Variation 1
Standing Arm Circles
Feet planted on the ground, hands in a golfers grip, arms rotating from the shoulder, palms up and palms down.
Cat and Dog
On all fours, the belly drops, chest puffs out and hips rise; then round the back, pulling the belly button in and the chin to the chest.
Finish Line Abs
Feet in staggered stance, elbows bent, arms tight to the side, pump your arms back and forth, as if sprinting, focusing on both speed and control.
Workout Variation 2
Crunch to Hip Bridge
Lying on ground with hands behind the head, crunch up so shoulders are off the ground, chin pointed to the ceiling; lower back down, push heels into the ground and raise your hips.
Calves and Calf Nots
Standing feet hip-width apart, toes straight ahead, lift the heels. Then point toes out, away from the body, lift your heels. Then toes pointed in, lift your heels.
Sit straight up with feet on the ground; wrap the arms around the legs and roll onto the back and then up to start position, using as little momentum as possible.