The Art of Hiking
Mobility is defined as the ability to move freely and easily through full Range Of Movement (ROM). Although this may sound quite basic, it is astounding to witness the number of healthy adults with incredibly poor mobility. All too often mobility sessions are overlooked while the focus remains on training sessions that give aesthetic-based results. More attention needs to be paid to mobility and to improving long-term health and wellness. Would you expect a car to function correctly if it was misaligned? Absolutely not! The case is no different with our bodies.
People often confuse mobility with flexibility. Mobility is all about developing great movement patterns requiring a combination of flexibility and strength. If one of these elements are disproportionate, then ROM will be compromised. Flexibility exclusively relates to the ROM of joints and the ability for joints to move freely. You can be flexible but have poor core strength, balance and/or coordination, which are all import aspects of mobility.
People often tell me that they can’t afford to make time for mobility, when in fact the opposite is true. You can’t afford not to.
And here is why:
For every hour you are sitting, whether this is at a desk or in a car, you further compromise your mobility. The human body is made to move. When seated, your hips, lower back and hamstrings tend to tighten along with the muscles in your chest and shoulders creating a muscular imbalance.
Improving your mobility helps reduce these muscle imbalances throughout the body. Tight, overactive muscles are released while loose, weak muscles are strengthened. This results in improved muscle activation, increased joint stability and less stress on the body as movement becomes more efficient.
Mobility is a game changer. If you are restricted in your ROM your development of strength will be limited to that range. Increased ROM means an increased potential to develop strength safely.
Muscular imbalances can cause joint pain, restriction or impingement. Through a combination of release and activation, this tension is reduced and the muscles work harmoniously to create smooth, pain-free movement.
Relieving tightness, especially through the chest, shoulders, thoracic and hips can make a significant impact in improving posture. By following this release with strengthening exercises for the weaker muscles, balance can be restored to these areas and full ROM becomes possible again.
As we age, joint health becomes increasingly important. Limitations in mobility can cause severe mental and physical health issues later in life. A consistent, long-term mobility practice is shown to improve joint health and therefore independence later in life.
Mobility can be effective in as little as 5-10 minutes a day, which can be done as a warm up or cool down on training days. For best results, spend 30-60 minutes on a full body release session on non-training days.
A comprehensive mobility session should include:
A typical session can be done with little to no equipment. When I’m travelling I always take a lacrosse ball for soft tissue release.
It’s never too late to integrate mobility into your training. And the good news is you will feel a difference after as little as 1-2 sessions. Just like any aspect of health and fitness, the key to long-term change comes with consistency. Over time, improved mobility can lead to improved sports performance, reduced injury, healthier joints and most importantly freedom of movement without pain or restriction.
Now that sounds like something worth spending your time on.
Image by BCFC/iStock