Functional Fitness for Your Heart

I'm so excited to have my friend and personal trainer, Elyse Petterson, contributing a post to my blog! Elyse is the co-owner of Perpetual Motion Performance Training in Walnut Creek, CA. I love the fact that she focuses on exercises that make us stronger in our every day lives and that these techniques can be done anywhere (home, office, hotel, gym) and in small segments, not just one long session at the gym. For more information about Elyse, her gym and classes she offers, go to or call her at 925-289-9741.

Elyse Petterson, Personal Trainer

Elyse Petterson, Personal Trainer

When it comes to fitness, most people are thinking about losing weight, getting more “toned”, and just generally looking (and feeling!) better. We don’t really start thinking about how exercise improves our heart health until a doctor tells us that we need to. And if and when that happens, sometimes the reaction can be a groan and a “well, better start using that gym membership”.

 Exercise is, of course, key for overall health and wellbeing. But at some point, we divided life up into “regular life” and “checking the box of going to the gym”. We drag ourselves there, tell ourselves we hate exercise, or that it hurts, or that it is boring, or that we don’t know what we are doing and don’t fit in. That’s no fun. That is a setup for failure.

What about, instead of dividing life up in to exercising and not-exercising, we look at the world and life as our gym? Being a gym owner, you might be surprised that I’m telling you to not worry about coming into the gym. But the emphasis we have is on functional fitness, meaning: the type of exercises that make you stronger for your daily activities. Squatting, lifting things up, walking on unstable surfaces (balance!), rotating, improving reaction time, and much more. My favorite stories from our gym members are the times that they did something in their daily life and found themselves stronger and more able because of what they have worked on with us. A great example is squatting down to pick up a gas canister and realizing it was much easier than the summer before. If we incorporate this attitude, our life becomes a series of micro-movements that all add up to us being naturally physically active people without having to get on a boring treadmill for an hour.

Let’s look at what activities are the most important for improving cardiovascular health: walking, strength training, yoga, and interval training. How can this be incorporated into your full day, instead of trying to cram it into a few hours a week at a gym that you have to drive to? All of us can find a way to incorporate more walking into our lives. If you have a dog, that dog is always going to be game for going on a walk with you (and dogs know more than anyone that it’s the journey, not the destination: stop to smell the roses). If you have breaks at work or a phone call to make, just go walk for 10 minutes, you would be amazed at how those steps add up. Strength training is as simple as picking up heavy things (safely) and putting them back down! Don’t look for shortcuts: carry your groceries, pick your kids up, move the firewood. Yoga is as simple as giving yourself five minutes in the morning to warm up your wrists, ankles, hips, knees, shoulders, then add a few basic poses. These daily warmups are also key for strengthening joints and ligaments and preventing injuries. Interval training is getting your heart rate up for short bursts with periods of rest in between - you don’t need to step a foot in the gym for that!

 The right kind of gym, with the right kind of support, can give you the tools you need to make your DAY and LIFE into regular cardiovascular exercise. Look at timed workouts as a supplement, not the answer. We were given these amazing bodies, let’s use them, as often as possible! 

For more information about functional fitness classes or individual sessions, go to