What is *mobility* ?!
That’s a question I actually don’t get often. And honestly, now that I think about it this surprises me. How often have you seen the word being thrown around lately? If you read a ton of fitness articles – or, more likely, your instagram is flooded with *certified* social media online trainers….You have seen this word a MILLION TIMES!
Story time – A client brought something really interesting up to me recently. As you may or may not know, I offer a service called “Mobility Plans” through the clinic I work at (Movement Health). She mentioned that every time she heard that I did this, or she read about it online, she was confused. She said every time she thought of the word *mobility* she thought *mobile*…as in, “I’m getting old and can’t get out of the shower on my own anymore because I’m not mobile” mobile.
That wasn’t really my goal. That being said, I realize now that I need to discuss the term that is used all over, so much.
Mobility vs Flexibility
Interestingly, these are not terms that I’d use interchangeably. Flexibility is defined as “the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion“, whereas mobility is the “ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion“.
That’s great, sooOOoOo interesting..right? Okay, but what the HELL does that actually mean? I like to think of it as this – Flexibility is measuring how much a muscle or connective tissue can stretch. Mobility is more of a measure of how a muscle or connective tissue can stretch AND how much your joints can “open” and also how your muscles and joints can stay stable while lengthened. Flexibility is simply a facet of a larger term of mobility.
Mobility is having strength WITHIN your flexibility.
When should I work on my mobility?
Though I want to say anytime, I will say working on this skill is best done before you exercise. Think of it as a primer for your activity of choice. Your movement will not only prepare you for more intense activity and prevent injury, it will help teach your body how to move properly within your new range of motion that you may have gotten from your mobility practice – cementing your improvement into your movement mechanics.
In my personal opinion, I think anytime is a great time to work on your mobility. As I mentioned above, it’s great to do these mobilizations before activity! But, it’s also easy to forget. I like to have my clients set a specific time every day to do their stretches or exercises. This could be right when they wake up, on their lunch break, or before bed.. anytime they can fit it into their routine. As long as you’re putting in effort to work on it daily, it will improve. So don’t put too much pressure on time!
Why is movement important in a mobility routine?
You may also be thinking, well can i just hold a stretch for 5 minutes every day and fix myself? Perhaps you will notice a big difference over the next few hours after holding these long poses.
But then a day goes by.. And you notice soreness and difficulty reaching that same range.
This is because you never taught your body that it’s safe in that range. Your muscles rebound back to its previous range because this is something that it knows is safe. Your body is trying to protect you at all costs, all the time. You need to create a new way of moving neurologically too. This is where the activity joins the party. If you’ve come to see me for Fascial stretch therapy you are proooobably aware of what i’m going to go over, but you may not understand why we do it. If not, I’m talking about when you’re in an assisted stretch OR when you’re stretching on your own.. And after holding the stretch, you engage your muscle or apply a little resistance, then stretch again for three rounds. Once you’re done that, you’ll notice a new range of motion, things feel a little more smooth.. This is really important because it’s literally teaching your muscles that the “new” range is safe – you have STABILITY and strength in that range. Your body creates these little neurological pathways and you practice your movement again and your mechanics improve. As long as you keep this up for a while, you will consistently notice progress and improvement.
So I want you to try something. As everyone for the most part is working from home right now – we all have sore spots, tight chests and upper body tension. Our posture could use a little (a lot of) TLC! I want you to find a wall or doorway, you’re going to put your elbow on the door or wall and give your chest a good stretch by leaning forward. Then, back off the stretch a little bit, and push your elbow back against the wall.. Hold for about 10 seconds, then stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat this 3 times and see how you feel. Try to do this for a few days in a row to notice some awesome results!