Use it OR Lose It

At close to 70 years of age, my parents purchased an upstairs condo in Florida. I am thrilled; not just because I now have a free place to stay in Florida, but because if my parents continue to go up and down stairs regularly, they will continue to be able to do so as they get older. Movement quality is something we all worry about with our parents and grandparents. This whole concept is mobility science! What our bodies tell us is that if you want to keep being able to do something, do it often. You have to use it or you lose it.

What do my parents having to walk upstairs to get to their home have to do with you? You might be an active person who goes to the gym, lifts heavy things, runs, rows, etc., but what about in 10 years? 20? 40? What do you want your body to be able to do or feel as you age? My goal is to be 90 and have a spine that can flex and twist and hopefully be able to pick up my feet when I walk. The long view. We are talking about health and fitness over a lifetime and mobility is a huge part of life, especially as we age.

What is mobility anyway? No one ever asks me this. My assumption is that people believe mobility and flexibility are the same thing. It is most definitely not. According to Oxford Dictionary:

Flexibility: the quality of bending easily without breaking

Mobility: the ability to move or be moved freely and easily

Flexibility is a personal quality related to how pliable your system of muscles and tendons are, which allow you to bend and extend.

Mobility is the ability for your joints themselves to act like a joint and enjoy the full range of motion of that joint or series of joints to work as a whole. Mobility should be a part of everyone’s exercise routine.

How does mobility work? I can just foam roll, right? Not really, no. Mobility is gained through actively articulating the joint and muscles of the body in order to increase range of motion, bring new fluid to the joint, and teach your muscles to tell your bones where they should be.

Flexibility Example:

  1. sit up straight

  2. roll your shoulders forward and backwards.

Usually feels great and maybe loosened some tension in your neck or upper back. It was very little work and took a small amount of time.

Mobility Example:

  1. sit up straight

  2. firm your belly

  3. move your rib cage back to be directly over your hips

  4. bring your arms out to the side of your body with tension in them (clench your fists if that helps)

  5. keeping all of that tension in your torso

  6. inhale and slowly squeeze your shoulders up to your ears and start to roll them backwards feeling and imagining your scapula (shoulder blades) squeezing together at the top, then middle, then bottom

  7. as you reach the bottom of the rotation keep your belly firm and ribs back as you puff your chest up

  8. bring the shoulders forward rounding the upper back, scapula move away from each other, spreading across the back, remember to keep the tension in the rest of the torso.

The whole rotation should have taken at least 3 breaths if not more and you may have even broken a small sweat or elevated your heart rate. Good. That is mobility work. Actively contracting the muscles of the body to work together in order to articulate a joint to move more freely and easily.

Mobility practice takes time and it must be varied.

If we do the same strength workout every time, we may look pretty funny (google, “don’t skip leg day”). The same goes for our mobility work. It cannot be the same few routine joint rotations before each workout, it should be intentional and varied in order to maintain health in all of our joints. Use it or lose it.

Yoga classes at Coachman are presented from a mobility mindset. We warm up with fluid movements articulating our bodies to facilitate opening of the joints and muscles and then explore building strength and stamina in postures with therapeutic benefits. Our yoga sessions are in a small group format and are offered on Wednesday nights at 7:20pm. We will be adjusting to Monday nights on 1/7/19, at 7:20pm. You can drop in to this class anytime by clicking here!

One on one mobility training is also available; email kirsten@coachmantrainingsystems.com to schedule.

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