Improving your mobility is one of the best things you can do for your health - beyond any exercise program or nutrition plan. But figuring out the best way to do this can be a bit... confusing. If you Google mobility training you'll get pages of results giving all sorts of conflicting information. There is nothing more disheartening than having all of the "go" but none of the "know", or even worse, finding out that you you've been wasting your precious time doing something ineffective or detrimental.
There are a number of popular mobility practices that unfortunately produce short-term effects, but little to no long-term results. The foam roller is a prime example of this - it certainly feels like it's doing something, and don't get me wrong, it is, but it's just not doing what you think it's doing. And don't get me started on the whole concept of "smashing" your tissues (read: please don't smash your tissues). Doing this kind of "mobility" work is not going to resolve anything and is just going to place you back at square one every day, which results in much frustration and that feeling of "well I must just be broken then".
So first let's understand what "mobility" means. A person with optimal mobility is able to perform a movement pattern with control in the full range of motion the movement was intended. People often mistake flexibility with mobility. The difference is that a flexible person will have a lot of range in their tissues, however they may not have the strength, balance, or coordination to actively perform a movement using that range. This can actually be problematic, as not having control over your tissues in their end ranges puts the tissues and joints at risk for injury.
Our systems are designed to rely on tension to move well - balanced tension, not the excessive tension that you feel in your neck after a long day at work. Tom Myers refers to this balance as "tensegrity". Effective mobility work should look at balancing and activating this tension to keep our joints safe and to give strength to our overall structure. So how do we do this?
Your day-to-day life is gonna change. Make movement routine. # We've been in Medellín for nearly two weeks now, and nothing is consistent yet. Except for my daily movement drills. # In addition to maintaining and improving my joints and soft tissue, the #frc CARS have been one thing I can consistently do amidst days where everything is totally bananas. # A daily series of movements is one stellar way to bring consistency, comfort, and support into the most hectic days. (FRC and CARS comes from @drandreospina's system, check him out for more) # Video sped up 1.75x #FRC #controlyourself #supportyourself #moveyourself #fitforreallife
For starters - move more!
It sounds really simple, but that's because it is. Just. Move. Move your feet - scrunch up your toes, wiggle them around, spread them out, point your toes, flex them. You have 33 joints in your feet alone, and they were meant to move. Get down into different positions on the floor to move your hips and ankles - squat, kneel, kneel with your toes tucked under, kneel on one knee. Work your way up your body and articulate all of your joints, making these movements slow and intentional. This is an ideal way to explore how your body is supposed to move and how it is moving on any given day. Knowing how your body is supposed to move and having control over those movements is the best way to minimize dysfunction and injury. You don't need to follow a specific protocol for this - be as creative as you want, but if you feel a bit stuck you can look here and here and here for some inspiration.
Once we've moved all of our joints around and got them warm we can start focusing on specific articulation patterns. Two of my favourites are for hips and shoulders, which are also the two joints that tend to be gummed up in most people. The first one comes from Kate Galliett, who is an incredibly knowledgable movement coach, and I highly recommend all of her material. The other two articulations come from Dr. Andreo Spina, who is a big proponent of isometric loading (contracting a muscle with no movement) to improve neurological function of tissues.
Okay so now you have to do it... every day!
That's probably the hardest part - actually putting consistent work in. I prefer to keep my homework tasks limited to one or two things for my clients to work on - any more and I know they won't be consistent with it. And that's really the key - it's not the amount of work that you put in here or there, it's a consistent mobility practice that's going to make the most difference. So start with a couple of things to build them into a habit and progress from there; before you know it you'll be a mobile superstar!