Why Should I Care About Mobility – For Athletes

It can be difficult to discern which fitness trends are fleeting fads, and which ones are important science-based developments.  If you had any doubts about the concept of mobility training, rest assured that it can have a critical effect on your performance, recovery, injury prevention and overall quality of movement.

Depending on your sport/workout environment, mobility training may be an old friend (I’m looking at you, Crossfitters, who have been way ahead of the trend in this area, thanks in no small part to mobility genius Dr. Kelly Starrett).  But for the rest of us, what does mobility and stability training even mean?

Mobility:  the ability of your joints to move through their full range of motion with strength and efficiency.  Your output of muscular strength is inherently limited by your range of motion.

Stability:  the support that your connective tissues give to your joints. Your ability to generate power (safely, symmetrically and efficiently) is dependent on the stability of your joints.

What does that mean for me?

A simplified but demonstrative example:  you could build the world’s strongest hamstring muscles, but if you have tight and sticky hips, your compromised range of motion means that you won’t be able to translate your insane hamstring strength into the movement required for say, a squat.  And if you have instability in your hip or knee joints, you won’t be able to use your insane hamstring strength to generate the power necessary for something like jumping.


This concept will translate differently into different sports, but the underlying principle is the same:

Cyclists:  tight hips will inhibit the power of your pedal stroke, and asymmetrical hip function will compromise the efficiency of your pedaling.

Runners and Nordic Skiers:  tight hips and ankles can dramatically limit your stride length, thereby compromising your performance in a way that no strength or speed training can fix.

Alpine Skiers:  tight hips will inhibit your ability to get low in your turns, causing poor balance and also back pain (if you can’t flex properly at the hip joint, your body will compromise by bending at the lumbar spine, which is not meant to bear that kind of load).

What should I do about it?

As with any high-performance machine, regular maintenance is your body’s best friend.  Most of us know that we can’t get away with skipping some sort of stretching or myofascial release (foam-rolling) for our hard-working muscles.  And hopefully all of us know we can’t get away with skipping brushing and flossing our teeth.  When it comes to something as important as your joint health and your range of movement, there’s no reason why you should take it any less seriously.

Performing a full-body range of mobility exercises for just 15 minutes every day will work wonders towards achieving optimal joint health.  Remember, mobility work is not stretching, as you can read more about here.  If you’re not able to join me for one of my mobility workshops, I encourage you to check out the books Becoming a Supple Leopard or Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett, or any of his videos.

How Mobility Training Differs From Stretching

Let’s say you drove your car this morning, and the engine started sputtering and shuddering, causing you to bounce along the road, ending up in a ditch with a flat tire.  Would you fix the tire and continue along your merry way?  I hope not.
But this is essentially what so many of us do when we decide to “treat” our back or neck pain by just stretching our back or neck muscles.  In many instances, our aches and pains originate from something gone haywire in our joints—whether it’s compromised mechanical function or an impingement or other restriction that limits our range of motion and/or the stability of the joint.
Stretching alone will not address this type of issue, because stretching focuses exclusively on muscles.  Specifically, the goal and result of stretching is to elongate tight and shortened muscles.  In contrast, mobility training uses movement to free up restrictions in not only muscles, but also ligaments, joint capsules and any related tissue restrictions.  To relate back to the car analogy, mobility training is doing the work on the underlying mechanical engine issue, rather than just fixing the resulting flat tire.
Let’s say your lower back hurts.  You decide to lie down and do some spine stretches you remember from yoga class, and maybe you even do a couple hamstring stretches, because you read somewhere that tight hamstrings can lead to back pain (true!).  Maybe you achieve temporary relief, but the next day the same cycle repeats.  It’s likely that you’re dealing with some impingement in your hip joint.  (There are endless reasons why our hips get tight, but perhaps the biggest culprit is one that none of us can avoid—sitting.)
Your hip joint is designed for mobility, while your lumbar spine (lower back) is designed for stability.  Obviously, your lower back is capable of being mobile, but it doesn’t respond well to being used as a primary mover.  It simply wasn’t built for that.  But because our bodies are endlessly adaptable, if a tight hip is rendering you unable to move into a particular position, your lower back will pick up the slack and move instead.  You might not even notice this movement compensation at first, but over time your lower back will find a way to let you know that it doesn’t like having to take over the work of your hip joints (hello, pain!).
To this end, your spine and hamstring stretches are unlikely to remedy a hip impingement, leaving you wondering why you’re still in pain after continuing a diligent stretching practice.  What you need in this instance is a daily regimen of hip mobility exercises which will bring back range of motion and loosen up any tissue restrictions.
To read more about what compromised mobility can mean for your body, click here.

Processed Foods: the Real Story

Headlines are declaring that our country is full of people who are overweight yet malnourished.  How is this possible?  In a nutshell, an increasing majority of the food found in our stores and restaurants is not true, whole food, but rather “food product” created in laboratories and injected with preservatives, fillers, dyes, and other synthetic materials.  This is one instance in which technology is not doing us any favors.  There are little to no nutrients in these food products!



It’s easy for us to forget the biological reason for eating:  to fuel our bodies with nutrients needed to survive and thrive.  Your stomach feeling full is only one means of appetite regulation.  In addition, if your body has not received sufficient nutrients from what you’re feeding it, your brain will continue to tell you to eat more.  We’ve all had the experience of enjoying the greasy, heavy McDonald’s meal — only to be starving an hour later, right?  This is why.

Many nutritionists refer to processed foods as empty calories.  Your body will never get enough of these, and it will continue craving food until it receives the nutrients it needs.  One of the most important things you can do — not only for weight loss, but also for your overall health, longevity, and wellbeing — is to make as much of your diet as possible consist of nutrient-dense foods.  What is a nutrient-dense food?  The closer it is to its original form, the better.  As soon as food has been processed and packaged and preserved in some way, it is moving away from its ideal nutrient density.


Drink More Water

It’s impossible to overstate how important water is, not only for fat loss, but also for healthy joints, immune function, hormone regulation, cell rejuvenation, and overall health and vitality.

What you think is hunger could really just be thirst!

Research has shown that confusing thirst for hunger is a contributing factor to obesity.  If you think you’re hungry, grab some water!  And if you let your body get to the point of feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated.  Your body cannot absorb water as quickly as you ingest it.  So, if you wait to drink until your mouth is dry when you’re 5 minutes into your workout, your body is still going to stay dehydrated for awhile.

Think dehydration is no big deal?  Dehydration results in your body burning muscle while hoarding fat, it contributes to metabolic problems and increased moodiness, and it can cause your body to suffer from slow digestion, waste build-up, slow brain function, muscle cramps . . . the list goes on.  Few things are as important to your overall health as drinking enough water — and it’s easy!

You should always start your day by drinking at least 2 glasses upon waking.  If you suffer from slow digestion, I highly recommend drinking a full 32 ounces of warm water within ten minutes of waking up.  This trick alone can alleviate certain kinds of constipation.

Lemon Water:

One great and easy thing you can do for your body every morning is to add some lemon to your water.  Lemon is a natural energizer for your body, and it also assists in detoxification.  Here are just a few demonstrated benefits of drinking lemon water:

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Balances pH levels (important for minimizing inflammation in the body)
  • Purifies the blood
  • Assists in weight loss
  • Flushes toxins
  • Decreases wrinkles and blemishes
  • Reduces fever

The Science of Meditation

Below is a link to a fantastic article about the scientifically proven health benefits of meditation.  I highly recommend taking a closer look at these studies, even if you already make time to meditate, or if you are among those who have decided it’s not your thing.  Whether it’s yoga, traditional meditation, or your own individual way of finding a few moments of peace and quiet (i.e. a walk on the beach withOUT your cell phone), the salient effects of deep relaxation have been documented by researchers at Harvard Medical School, among others.

“Harvard researchers asked the control group to start practising relaxation methods every day,” says Jake Toby, hypnotherapist at London’s BodyMind Medicine Centre, who teaches clients how to induce the relaxation effect. “After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on.’

Here are just 7 of the scientifically proven health benefits of deep relaxation:

1.  Improved immune system

2.  Emotional balance

3.  Increased fertility

4.  Relieves IBS

5.  Lowers blood pressure

6.  Anti-inflammatory

7.  Calmness

Read more here!  http://www.foodmatters.tv/articles-1/7-health-benefits-of-meditation