Whatever our age, especially if we’re active in any kind of sport, sooner or later the aches and pains creep in. What can we do about them, we wonder?
Many of us oldsters will remember how little attention was paid to stretching and warming-up before Phys Ed class when we were in school. And cooling down exercises? Forget it.
As competitive sports have become more intense and demanding, much more attention is being paid to the things it takes for us to get, or stay, in shape. It’s a reasonable goal – one that leads to staying fitter and more mobile longer.
While Men’s Journal is a magazine devoted – for the most part – to the relatively young fitness buff, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from their advice. Recently, they ran a story about mobility and here’s what they said about it:
The Secret Sauce
“You want to get bigger, stronger, and faster? If your weekly routine just consists of lifting and conditioning work, you’re only incorporating two of the three ingredients necessary to reach this goal. What’s missing? Your ability to move all that meat and muscle around – also known as mobility.
Lots of lifters associate mobility with yoga and dance. And for most guys (and women) hitting the bench station at your local gym, mobility is limited to a few minutes of foam-rolling before a heavy lift day (at best).”
The Men’s Journal piece refers to mobility as the “secret sauce for seriously fit people.” And while you may not consider yourself meat and muscle material, it’s an aspect of fitness training that’s worth taking seriously.
The Globe and Mail put the idea of mobility in more accessible terms when it showcased the work of Paul Landini.
Stretch It Out
Paul Landini’s a personal trainer and health educator operating out of Kitchener, Ontario, and he writes in The Globe and Mail:
Mobility training is a lot like flossing your teeth: we all know it’s good for us, yet for the most part it gets ignored. At best we’ll throw some half-hearted stretches into our warm-up (that is if we even warm-up at all) or wiggle around on a foam roller for a few minutes and leave it at that. Then we have those at the opposite end of the spectrum, the fanatical disciples of self-appointed movement gurus whose pre-workout rituals involve multiple devices and take up more time than their actual training sessions.
Mr. Landini recommends focusing on three general areas of mobility training which, he contends, “can unlock a world of physical autonomy that carries over into every aspect of life.” Those three areas are the hips, the shoulders and the spine.
1. The Hips:
Observes Landini: “Whether it’s swinging a nine iron, throwing a right cross, or squatting down deep, your hips are the driving force behind nearly all athletic performance.”
A great exercise for this area of the body is the frog stretch. It’s a surprisingly easy exercise which, as you will see from the video, can be performed in your living room.
“To start, get down on your forearms and knees, with your knees spread at least shoulder-width apart. From here, while maintaining a flat back, slowly push your butt back toward your feet. Once you feel the stretch, pause for a second and then return to the starting position,” suggests Landni.
Once you’re comfortable doing the exercise, extend the pause progressively to 15 seconds. That’s it.
2. The Shoulders:
The hips may be the power centre of the body, but the shoulders also play an essential role.
Landini recommends an exercise called quadruped shoulder circles, which sounds ominous but is not. It’s really a relatively easygoing shoulder roll that works like this: “Starting on your hands and knees (a.k.a. the quadruped position), the goal is to simply roll your shoulders in forward and backward circles, emphasising that stretch between the shoulder blades and spine. For an easier variation, try it standing or sitting upright, with your arms by your side. 5-10 slow reps in each direction will do the trick.”
3. The Spine:
Landini states: “The spine acts as a bridge between the upper and lower body, allowing the power generated from one region to transfer to the other.”
Without getting too technical, the spine is capable of flexing, extending and rotating. As we age – and as most of our followers have noticed – a stiff spine is our enemy.
To open-up the spine, Landini recommends performing quadruped spine circles, which is an exercise that targets the thoracic spine, that part of the spinal column controlling the torso.
As this video clip demonstrates, quadruped spine circles: “Are performed in a similar manner to the shoulder circles only instead of rolling your shoulders in a forward/backward pattern, you’re drawing your spine around in clockwise and counter-clockwise circles. 5-10 reps in each direction are all you need.”
Not Just For the Over 60 Crowd
Those of you who follow our blogs will likely notice similarities between these three mobility exercises and those we showcased in our recent blog about essentrics.
The movements involved in both exercise programs are simple, safe, effective and appropriate for all ages and fitness levels. They’re especially recommended for the over 60s, many of whom suffer from flexibility and posture problems.
As with all exercise programs, if in doubt consult your doctor and, above all, be patient. The rewards will come.