I’m calling these mobility “tips”, but in reality these are just the core components of a strong mobility practice. No secrets, no fancy gimmicks. Just five basic principles…
|1| Be a Sniper
Identify the target and take aim.
First, recognize your restricted movements or positions. Are you unable to sink low in the squat? Are you unable to reach your arms overhead without arching your lower back? These are just examples. Find the restrictions that are relevant to what you’re training for. (Remember our talk about finding your reasons for having a movement practice?)
Second, tease out the stiff or short tissues that may be contributing to the restriction. Learn a bit about your own anatomy. Arm yourself with knowledge, as the adage goes.
|2| Be Consistent
Reasonable doses administered frequently over time will create the most enduring changes. Restriction is normal for you at this point. You have to create a new normal, and that does not happen overnight. Make your targetted mobility work a part of your daily life until you earn the improvement you want. (This means multiple doses each day, not twice a week!)
|3| Be Patient
It takes time and commitment to undo stiffness and poor movement habits forged over years. If you see improvement over time, take the little victories as they come. If you don’t see that slow, steady progress, examine your process. Are you being honest with yourself in following the principles outlined here? That is often the problem. If it’s a matter of poor methods, generally you’ll only know once you’ve put some time into a quality attempt.
It may also be that the initial restriction is a bit beyond your means to deal with. Don’t jump to this conclusion quickly, but if you are able to explore massage therapy, physiotherapy, or other professional services, these practitioners may be able to give you the jumpstart and tools you need to carry on yourself. (Just be very discerning about the individual you work with. Seek testimonials. Judge for yourself.)
|4| Be Meticulous
You know what three minutes on a foam roller becomes if you don’t time it? Something like 30 seconds. It doesn’t always feel nice, and it’s easy to tap out early if you don’t have a clock keeping you accountable (especially as a beginner).
Timing your mobility efforts will help you do two things in particular. First, you’ll know what dose you’re giving yourself in each session. Second, you’ll know how much time you’re putting into making the change over the long term. With these two measures, you’ll be able to make adjustments to your practice as necessary if you don’t see change. This will dramatically improve your progress (if you’re not already doing it).
Record data, and use it.
|5| Be an Artisan
Recognize mobilization as a skill to be developed. With practice you will become better and better at applying these principles and affecting real change on your body. Don’t be afraid to start and learn as you go, but make it a point to learn!
Also recognize that, as an artisan of mobility, you’ll need to expand your toolkit in order to take on certain tasks. Missing ranges of motion don’t always mean a muscle is short in the classic sense. Learn to address your movement errors, because these generate stiffness and pain. Learn to use foam rollers, massage balls, and other basic tools for soft tissue work. (Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD is a great resource, and the source of much mobility innovation.)
This is enough to begin with. Mobility is as deep a realm as any in fitness, but don’t let that overwhelm you. You don’t have to be an expert mechanic to change your oil, and you’ll learn a great deal through the practice itself.
Now go move!