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Health & nutrition insights.

Functional Fitness Training at the CORE

My passion outside of golf that has taught me a lot about functional fitness and developing core strength is training on obstacles like those found on the #1 hit TV show American Ninja Warrior. I was fortunate in 2016 to be able to compete in Oklahoma City for ANW season 8. I ended up placing 33rd out of 113 competitors missing the city finals by three spots. I learned a lot about that experience and what can help all my clients perform their best in golf and fitness in general.


I constantly tell my clients to focus and enjoy the process and not the results. The results come if the process is followed and the mind doesn’t lose focus on the steps it takes to achieve success. I have been training on obstacles and doing functional fitness for the past three years. At first it was very humbling because I was in the middle of the pack in competitions. Over time I kept improving and getting stronger. I also made my health a priority by eating anti-inflammatory foods and visiting my chiropractor regularly. This past year I placed in the top 3 to advance to the national finals for the Ultimate National Ninja League in Dallas, TX. Unfortunately, I had a conflict so I didn’t get to compete at Nationals but that was never my end goal. My goal was to continually improve and keep getting stronger in all areas of functional training. The results have spoken for themselves as I am stronger at age 37 than I was in my twenties. Many people ask me how often I train and they are surprised by my answer. I only train 3-4 days a week no more than 1 hour usually allowing at least a day in between workouts. It isn’t just how much you train, but the quality of training that truly matters.


I don’t think I would have continued to train on obstacles because of the difficulty at first. It is the camaraderie I developed with my fellow competitors and friends that I really enjoy. We continue to push each other to be our best offering training tips and being a support system for each other. I believe this is the secret to success in fitness. If you have a friend or family member you train with, you will be more likely to continue because of the support system and accountability. I always try to surround myself with positive people that are successful in life. Life may throw us curve balls at times but it is our attitude and persistence that pulls us through. Fitness classes are a great way to meet like-minded people who are there to encourage and support.


When it comes to learning a new obstacle or exercise it is going to take a little time to get your brain to understand the correct movement or form. This is where repetition and coaching comes in. The learning curve takes far less time when you have a trainer there to coach you every step of the way. Many injuries happen when performing exercise or obstacle training because of inexperience and training to fast without proper form or movement. A good trainer or coach can help prevent the dangers that come with learning a new obstacle or exercise by performing progressions.

It is important to accept failure as part of the process and to make slight adjustments along the way. I failed many of the difficult obstacles at first before my mind and body were on the same page in order to experience success. It is persistence and slow improvement over time on movement and form that helps you reach a higher level of performance in the gym.

Written by: Sean W. Saunders, PGA, ACE, TPI

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