By Sherry Ward

“Coach Sherry I have a few questions about Mobility.”

Wonderful. To achieve the optimal level of physical performance at any age for strength and power, mobility is the common denominator and the first point of reference in any fitness program. In most general fitness programs, the pillars of fitness are listed as muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. In terms of movement defined by the CrossFit, which is applicable to all fitness as in general physical competency has expanded as listed below.

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
  2. Stamina
  3. Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Power
  6. Speed
  7. Coordination
  8. Agility
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy

“Coach I run every day. Why do I need to incorporate strength, agility, and balance in my current fitness program?”

Overtraining or neglecting one of the aspects in movement listed above will not only deter your progress in performance. It can lead to injuries, pain, muscular and joint disease as well as disorders. Preventative measures must be taken into consideration whether you are a rookie, the comeback kid, and a veteran to fitness and or a professional athlete. It’s best to focus on areas of weakness to achieve optimal performance.

“Coach where does mobility fit in with all this fitness?”

Though not listed in the general physical competency list as stated above, mobility is an overall contributor to being a stronger, faster and healthier version of you. With mobility, you need to move efficiently and pain-free in a range of motion to get to point A to Z. How do you plan to save the world with your greatness if you are finding it difficult or painful to transition from sitting to standing from your desk or picking up and carrying your child on a day-to-day basis?

“Coach, I thought Mobility and Flexibility are the same?”

Sorry to break your heart. No. Flexibility is defined as the range of motion by the lengthening of the muscles. You can be flexible like a Cirque de Soleil contortionist and wrap your leg around your neck. By the way, that’s a pretty cool party trick. However, you may not have the necessary strength developed to squat heavy, hold an object steadily overhead while lunging 100m or complete explosive high jumps like the person next to you with less flexibility who is similar bone structure, weight, height, age, and endurance. Mobility is defined as the range of motion by the joints. For example, are you able to squat in a healthy range of motion with no pain and the least amount of effort? In this case, we want to look as flexibility as an asset to mobility.

“But Coach, I stretch and or do yoga.”

Yes. Stretching is good. Yoga is wonderful. These are great assets to a good flexibility program. There are tons of good programs to help relieve tensions in joints. And it feels good to move the body on days when you don’t even want to look at a barbell because you just crushed a barbell complex the day before and today your body is screaming hell no. Stretching provides temporary results in terms of sport-specific performance perspective.

“Coach I always feel pain in my lower back. I foam roll on my back and it’s not helping.”

It feels good to roll on the floor with a foam roller on the back. Similar to stretching, it’s a temporary solution for the moment. Ask yourself, will it help you achieve your heavy lift or your long distance run? For long term as well as preventative solutions to relieve the low back consider the following:

  1. What is the current stability state of the spine?
  2. How’s the mobility of the hips and t-spine?
  3. Do you have healthy flexibility in the hamstrings?

It hurts my eyes when I see athletes rolling on their backs. I do it too but to resolve pain issues; consider the surrounding muscle groups and joints that may be contributing to said discomfort. It may feel like it but it may not be just one muscle group. It’s not just one thing or one muscle group. Other factors to consider are whether or not you are strengthening accessory muscles that are compounding the problem and not attributing to the solution. Find an experienced coach, trainer, or movement specialist to give you a proper assessment before you continue to stack plates on a barbell or fight through a long distance run and think it’s no big deal; suck it up and just roll with it. Listen to your body and train smart to achieve gains and not encounter setbacks to your fitness goals.

“Coach should I be mobilizing every day and when should I be stretching?”

First and most importantly, listen to your body, not the ego. There are quite a few variables involved. Scan the body before and after the class warm up. Stretch when you feel tightness in the body. Drop in a yoga class if you don’t feel like lifting a barbell. Another great reference is B|Mobile class at Brick, 257 W. 17th St., every Saturday 1:30pm. This is one opportunity for athletes to combine self-myofascial release, trigger point therapy and stretching for recovery and sports performance.