When was the last time you stretched? And the full body yawn when you first get out of bed does not count. I mean a real stretch; legs quivering, breath held, counting down the seconds until you can excuse yourself from holding such a painful position, and then convincing yourself that you actually made a positive difference despite the fact that you can’t feel or see it? When was the last time you “rolled out” using a ball, or a foam roller? And I mean really rolled out; once again breath held, as beads of sweat begin along your forehead because of the painful “knot” you tirelessly roll past. At this point you are probably asking yourself, “why should I care about these methods of torture?!”
I am happy to answer this question for you. A well-rounded exercise routine should include three basic components:
Before I go on, I want to define exactly what “mobility” is.
Mobility as it applies to the human body can be defined as — the degree to which an articulation (where two bones meet) is allowed to move before being restricted by surrounding tissues (ligaments/tendons/muscles etc.)… otherwise known as the range of motion.
I see you cardio junkies every morning at 5am, working tirelessly on that elliptical. Or the macho dudes bicep curling and bench pressing day in and day out. I ask you, who of you is making time for mobility? And why don’t people do it? Reread that first paragraph and you can easily guess why people don’t follow through with mobility work – it hurts!
It doesn’t take an exercise guru to assume that most people do not prioritize mobility and flexibility training. We like to do work (in the gym or professionally), we like to work hard, and then we like to pat ourselves on the back and move on. This is where even the most robust exercise and fitness lifestyles are falling flat. Because it’s not the work you do that matters – it’s the work you DON’T do.
If you work out multiple times a week without finishing up with mobility work, consider this; you are never reminding your muscles of their full length potential, and then, you sit down at a desk all day. Every time you do this your muscles become increasingly shorter and tighter. Here is where the good news comes in; this vicious cycle is reversible.
Following a hard workout is the most ideal time to increase your mobility. Your muscles and subsequent tissues are warm and circulating blood at a faster rate than when at rest, making them malleable and more sensitive to changes in length. Most exercisers are pressed for time and rarely take advantage of this opportune moment. By concluding a workout with mobility, you are disarming your muscles from warrior mode, and resetting them to a state that will be primed and ready for their next battle/workout.
It’s time to embrace the piece of your exercise routine that you’ve been missing for so long. Mobility, much like cardio and strength, is an ESSENTIAL component of a physically fit lifestyle. Without mobility your regular regiment will be interrupted by inevitable injuries that occur with the loss of range of motion to your muscles and joints. Changing your flexibility takes work and consistency. Fortunately for you, these are concepts that you are very familiar with, and that will lead to noticeable outcomes. The results might not be a change in the size or the tone of your six pack, but instead, the relief of the nagging pain in your lower back, or the twinge behind your knee cap when going down stairs.
Shift your perspective, add mobility to your workouts, and reap the benefits. Your body will thank you.
Lexy Rose holds a Masters in Exercise Physiology from Columbia, is a NASM certified personal trainer and Pilates mat instructor, and is the owner and founder of StretchWorks LLC, a mobility focused movement practice.