2/23/16

Mobility for athletes



Good mobility and great performances are closely tied to one another.
As it relates to performance declines and/or injuries, lack of mobility can be a culprit.


I'm a huge proponent of mobility work and I often spend up to 15 minutes before a swim, bike or run workout slowly working my body through a range of dynamic and mobility exercises to warm-up, before I warm-up. Going on almost 3 years without an injury, routine mobility work (I never stretch, trigger point or foam roll) is one of a few key improvements that I have made in my training regime to help reduce the risk for injury.

Why is mobility important?
If you cannot move your muscles, limbs and joints through their full range of motion and you are limited to one plane of movement, your body is not being used to its full potential. When mobility suffers, performance suffers because you can no longer generate the power and speed that you are capable of producing.

What happens with poor mobility?
Aside from not being able to train to your full ability, when one part of your body (ex. hips, knee, ankles, shoulders) loose full mobility, those muscles, joints or ligaments can become weak or tight. To compensate, another part of the body has to pick up the slack. When your glutes are weak, the knees or lower back is forced to take over. Poor ankle mobility or tight calves can contribute to plantar fascia issues. A tight neck can cause back issues.
It’s much safer and healthier for your body to train when you can move through full range of motion when you train as this will reduce the stress on your entire body.

Why you need to improve mobility
The best way to improve mobility is to reduce the chance for immobility.
 How many times have you visited a massage therapist and said “my x is so tight or stiff!” with hopes that he/she will magically “release” and fix you in an hour.

 Many athletes neglect mobility for two reasons:
1) They don’t/have make the time for mobility work
2)
Ok, so there is really only one main reason.

Athletes love to prioritize cardio or strength training over mobility work because mobility work takes away valuable training minutes.

If you say "I don't have time for mobility, I only have x-minutes to train," I want you think about this.

Your ability to have a great workout is affected by many things - sleep, nutrition, motivation, economy, muscle strength, etc.
When considering the importance of spending 5-15 minutes to mobilize your body before you start your workout, if you could go into the workout with better range of motion and a more relaxed body, even if it means working out 5-15 minutes less if you are crunched for time, you wouldn't only enjoy the workout more because you felt better when training but you would actually improve performance because you could go a little harder and a little faster (perhaps even going a little further) with less work.

Great idea, right?!
That's what we call training smarter to train harder.

Every time you take a stroke and kick in the water, pedal on the bike and run forward, you are forcing key muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons and bones to work. When you go into a workout tight, your warm-up can only loosen you up to a certain degree. You may think that because you are time-crunched that you have to make every minute count for cardio (or strength training), but the main goal of training is to have quality workouts.
With poor mobility, economy decreases. And when economy decreases, it’s more difficult to be fast, strong or efficient when training.

Seeing that you work so hard to improve your cardio fitness, your strength and your stamina, it’s important that you can ensure full range of motion with every stroke, foot strike and movement forward.

It can be very frustrating to feel like performance is declining, despite you feeling like your cardiovascular system is very robust and your mind is completely committed.  But this is a common occurrence that athletes will train and train and train and get tighter and tighter and tighter. Eventually, you get an injury that may have been prevented from an improvement in mobility. 

In my next blog I will provide a few helpful tips for improving mobility.