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This Test for Healthy Aging Can Keep You Active, Strong, and Out of Pain

exercise pain

When I started learning aerial dance, I quickly found out that (1) it's hard! and (2) I had to do something else to prepare my body for the workouts.  The classes themselves were great - I felt stronger than ever, and occasionally even graceful.  But I was getting injured - a wrist injury here, a shoulder injury there - and I was stiff and sore CONSTANTLY.  

And this, dear reader, is why I got into MOBILITY work.  

I had the background in yoga, martial arts, and posture science, but I didn't have a real reason for putting it altogether into a pain-relief system ... until I did.  Learning how to fix my own wrist, shoulder, neck, hamstring, heel, and knee (I could go on, haha!), I had several light-bulb moments.  

One thing I see over and over is a misconception for what "mobility" means. 

Or even an up-front, "Why would I need to do that?" 

Or even a vague conception of "Yeah, I've done that - BEFORE," meaning it's not done regularly.  And probably with that, a lack of understanding of why you would want to do mobility work regularly.  

Many people insist that "Yes, I'm mobile."  Meaning, I can walk.  I can drive.  I can use the restroom.  And yes, that is a type of mobility.

Another misconception is that mobility means the same thing as athleticism. 

For athletes - professional and recreational - chances are that your sport reinforces the mobility you bring to it each time.  Meaning, if your sport is jogging, and your feet or knees hurt, every time you jog, the knee or foot pain/tightness/weakness becomes more of an issue.  It may feel better when you first start moving, but afterward, the problem areas return stronger than ever.  

So if mobilitiy isn't the same thing as MOVEMENT, and it's not the same thing as EXERCISE, WHAT IS IT AND WHY DO I NEED IT?! 

You need mobility to bring your body back to neutral.  Back to your body's normal state of flexibility, strength, and full range of motion.  

But, unfortunately, past a certain age (13?  14?), you don't have natural flexibility and strength without working on it consistently.  

If you want the results, you have to put in the work.  

Just a couple days a week for mobility can make all the difference in your body.  Then you can go back to your sport, or just living your life, without the aches and pains! 

Plus, mobility makes you more resiliant to changes.  Want to take a trip to Rome and walk around the Colossum and the Vatican all day?  You're ready.  Want to learn how to sail?  Might as well; you're in ship-shape!  Your mom invites you to her house for a deep-cleaning (we all can dream, right)?  Why not?!  That's easy.  

There are LEVELS to mobilization.

Level 1:  lack of mobilization (severe arthritis; recovering from illness, injury, surgery; in a hospital bed; etc.)

Level 2:  some mobilization (can walk, but would rather not; can sit, but it hurts; not very active in general; etc.)

Level 3:  mostly mobile, but with some limitations (it hurts to put weight on your wrists; you're not able to fully extend your arms above your head; you can't reach your toes; etc.)

Level 4:  very mobile, and working on goals (can do a scapular pull-up, and working toward a full pull-up; can bike 5 miles, and working toward 10; can do a lizard lunge, and working toward a "flying lizard" - goals!, etc.)

And I think MOST PEOPLE (90%+) CAN GET TO LEVEL 4.

However, most people are stuck at levels 2 and 3.  

Most people have at least one part of their body that isn't performing optimally.  

For example, 

* you keep having sharp pains in your ankle, heel, or foot

* you have pain after a long walk, a night of dancing, or an exercise class

* you can't comfortably lay down on your stomach

* you keep reinjuring the same spot

* there's a tight spot in your shoulders you just can't seem to get rid of

* your neck is always stiff

* your hip pops 

* you can't stand for long periods of time without your knee acting up

* your calves are tighter than jeans from the early 2000s

* your toes are tingling

* your fingers are numb

 * your wrist gives out when you wash the cast iron skillet (only me?)

* your back aches and your hip freezes up after a long drive 

* you're considering another surgery (because the first one worked so well...)

How do we use mobilization to get out of these situations? 

The difference between "exercise" and "mobility" is the type of movements done and the intention behind them.  But, yes, mobility work is a type of exercise.  

Mobility is done to specifically 

1. Improve the functional range of motion 

2. Help your body relax into a healthier posture

3. Stretch and relax tight areas

4. Strengthen support muscles

Exercise is good for fitness, fun, health, strength, and flexibility. 

Mobility is for REHAB of injuries and RECOVERY of the soreness we usually experience with exercises.  

And mobility - ideally - PREVENTS injury in the first place.  

We do mobility so that we can exercise.  

Here are some mobility tests you can do to assess how "MOBILE" you are:

1. Can you twist to one side without leaning forward, back, or moving your feet?

2. Can you do a low squat?   Can you come back to standing from a low squat without using your hands?

3. Can you move your arms straight overhead, out to the sides, and then behind your back?

4. Can you touch your toes? 

5. Can you balance on one leg?

How can I improve my mobility? 

If we're building mobilty in the feet, for example, the first step may be to separate the toes a bit.  Passive mobility, so to say.  Just stick your fingers in between your toes, or use toe separators (like for a pedicure) and walk around like that for a few minutes.  

Then, we move into active mobilizations like pointing and flexing.  Or lifting up onto your toes from a standing position.  

You can mobilize every body part, and you can read more about specific mobilizations here.

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