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Joe Daniels: 11 Must-Haves in Functional Fitness for 2014

This column is by Joe Daniels, owner of SwingThis! Kettlebells & Strength Studio in Latonia.

This is not an easy article to write as there are just so many things out there promising to make you invincible and/or packing around fifty more pounds of muscle.

So what I will do is give you a little “Keep It Simple Stupid” to ring in the best 2014 that you can.  Keeping it simple and making progression in your training is what you are looking for to make  your resolution stick.  Remember you are looking for something that can be a lifestyle not just a quick fix. Quick fixes are quick to revert. So, getting to the point, here are my top 10 must-haves to start your 2014 off on the right track.

1. A Good Community based gym membership     

This is where you will find motivation and support, instead of wandering around machine to machine and only to end up on the treadmill for the time you are at the gym.

Make sure this gym or program FITS YOUR NEEDS in 2014.  This can be a gym like Swing This Kettlebell or another facility (CrossFit, etc.) that is there to help you succeed with what you can do, not a one-size-fits-all approach. While possibly more expensive than regular health club-type gyms, in the long run you will benefit more from surrounding yourselves with motivated and helpful people  who have been in your shoes before as a beginner.

2. Membership to             

One of the most important things you can learn no matter what your goals in fitness are, is to be able to address and fix issues with your body before they become problems.  

Having an idea of what your problem is can help you to fix it yourself with the tools on MobiltyWOD from Dr. Kelly Starrett or to be able to describe your issue better with your therapist or doctor if you do have an injury or problem. Remember, pain is a signal that something is wrong, not a  just cue to take more medications to blunt it.  You can come out worse with that approach like many clients i have seen who have been pushed into taking cortizone shots without fixing the root of the issue such as faulty movement mechanics.


One of the most complete and unbiased collections of nutrition in one place on the web. 

Jon Berardi’s website features healthy nutrition and lifestyle help to give you the healthiest body and mind you've had yet. Experts from around the world help with the information and you can also find nutrition coaches in your area to help you or even get online coaching from the Precision Nutrition team. Most of the articles are free so don't miss out on this in 2014. Also, a great local business I support in Cincinnati is  for your supplement needs.

4. A Kettlebell (or two or 3,4,5….)     

Bet you thought I would have put that at #1.  

Seriously though, the benefit of adding proper kettlebell training can work wonders for every program out there whether fat loss, muscle gain, sports performance, or coordination and balance training.  

I cant think of anything they cannot help with.  They can help a powerlifter with balance and conditioning or a beginner with very little experience with weight training as it is such a fluid motion. Just make sure to work with an experienced trainer. Kettlebells in a boot camp atmosphere for beginners, in my mind, is a terrible idea.  Due to the amount of multiplanar technical coordination skills, it is a must to learn proper ways to use a kettlebell. If you're close to Cincinnati you can get Proper , affordable training here.

There are many great places to purchase quality kettle bells, it just depends on which style you’d like: competition or regular fitness kettlebells. Purchase at Perform Better, RogueFitness, IKFFWorld KEttlebell Club or Vulcan.

5. Bulgarian Bag or Ultimate Sandbag  

One of the most underrated tools out there, I believe.

Sure you can make one yourself but the quality and feel wont be there as Ivan Ivanov's Bag.  A must for rotational athletes and wrestlers, these little devils are core training beasts!!!  

Dont believe me? Try the Spin Test with one at my gym. It involves ten spins to each direction plus ten pushups for five rounds. Anywhere near three minutes is great and trust me, your whole body will feel it!      

You also could save by ordering from Suples if you mention that you were sent there by Joe Daniels at SwingThis Kettlebell and Strength (at least, you could ask , it never hurts!).  

Get a rock solid and stable torso/core in 2014.  

Sandbag training is great as well. Anytime you can use a training tool that closely simulates weights and forces that you come into contact everyday is going to benefit you.  Sandbag = not getting as fatigued when handling bags of patio leveling rocks on for the weekend landscape warriors or for you internet cat lovers, you can hurl the kitty litter around like no one's business.

6. Heart Rate Monitor  or athletic tracker

I am a big fan of tracking your heart rate. It's not even new technology but the Garmin Forerunner series keeps track of heart rate and GPS tracking. Speed, HR and elevation, etc., can be charted in real time through your workout and kept in a handy file online. It's cool to see what exercises affected your Heart rate in which ways. I use it a lot for training recovery with Kettlebell Sport. It can be a burden to keep your pulse during exercise so it’ll just do it for you while tracking calorie expenditure as well. Of course you could use Fitbit or other types of movement trackers also.

7.  A Digital Food Scale and Nutrition Tracking apps     

Face it, most of you don't know how much you are eating.

A digital scale can help you to weigh your food if only for a little while to understand how to implement a better nutritional intake and start good habits. While I don't recommend weighing everything all the time, it is good to have for recipes and nutrition plans that have to be strict.  MyFitnessPal and LiveStrong are a couple of the many calorie and food databases out there that you can use to track your progress.

While the apps are free, some have fees for add-on services. Digital scales can run from $20 to hundreds of dollars.

8. A Foam Roller  

If you’re still not using foam rolling for corrective exercise work and recuperation from training, then we cannot be friends. 

If you value our friendship and wish to remain within the circle of trust (Meet the Parents anyone?) you'll go  to Triggerpoint Therapy  or Perform Better to get one NOW.

You'll thank me later. 

Some of the most dramatic changes we can make is to fix our mechanics and inhibit the tightness we cause our tissue from hard training or a sedentary desk job. Examples of foam rolling are everywhere from MobilityWoD and YouTube.  A Foam Roller is a basic you could start with and then there are many, many other tools you could add toyour mobility routine. While not a perfect tradeoff for massage therapy, it can definitely help and increase the benefits you get from massage. Check out the M80 Roller (tough, tough, and tougher; great density for legs.) and the TigerFitness RecoverRoller (ribbed, for your muscles pleasure…).



9. These Shorts  

These Hylete shorts are the most functional, and comfortable ones I've used for the type of training I do and can even be fine to swim in.  They rock and have a 2-year warranty. Go ahead beat 'em up.

10 A Nice Pack or Bag    

You're gonna need something to carry all your training tools or gym stuff. Get rid of those non functional duffel bags that break. With that Kettlebell you have you can load it into a  Marmot pack and take it hiking or to the beach. That's where I prefer to exercise on vacation. Not very expensive but super versatile. Or, if you like to hike a lot with a toddler, grab an Osprey Poco Plus pack. It fits great, is comfortable and my daughter Sadie loves going out for a couple miles in the wilderness.

Why hiking? Because its incredibly good for your all around fitness. Stability, strength and endurance wrapped into an enjoyable breath of fresh air in your favorite wildlife area!  Just remember to take care of your favorite trails and please don't litter!

11. OPTIONAL This Knife…or one like it

You should never be without a great knife. Period. This Spyderco knife is one of the most useful ones I’ve ever had for  a  sharp companion. Oh, and it's from Golden, CO USA, Earth. Cant beat that.

So there you go. Lots of fun can be had with these tools to make your 2014 resolutions and fitness plans come alive.
Joe Daniels is the owner of SwingThis Kettlebell & Strength Studio in Latonia. Find them on Facebook.