I was in the pool at 7:10 AM on Saturday for our 5000 yard challenge. We had a group of 8 people participating and it was amazing that everyone was on time. Swimming lessons follow our swim workout, so no one wanted to be kicked out of the pool having finished “only” 4900 yards! Our swim coach encouraged us to swim a few extra yards during the warm-up in case we needed to sit out a 50 or get out to use the bathroom. I ended up “banking” 250 yards, which I didn’t use, so I finished with 5250 yards…basically 3 miles. I would have never done it without my teammates ~ there is a lot to be said for being inspired by a group ~ thanks Team InfiniTri. Did any of you challenge yourself this weekend?
So after our swim we all went to Whole Foods for breakfast and coffee. After all those yards no one seemed to be in a hurry to go ride their bike (except one, who is training for an Ironman). A few of us got to talking about lifting and whether it helped with their swim. I have been lifting at Cressey Performance since October and feel it has helped my swim tremendously. I feel really strong in the water despite swimming no more than I usually do and my shoulders and upper back feel like they are really moving well through the water. Interestingly, two of my male teammates who have lifted in the past felt that the lifting made them tight and they did not feel better in the water. I knew right away that they subject for my next post had to be mobility work.
While most people know what stretching is, I would venture to guess that most do not know what mobility work is. Stretching has to do with increasing muscle length. All muscles have an optimum length at which they function, and through stretching we are trying to lengthen muscles that are too short (a lot of debate surrounds this, and I will post on that at another time). Mobility, on the other hand, refers to joints. Mike Boyle and Gray Cook have been credited with popularizing the “joint-by-joint” approach which looks at the body as a series of joints. The ankle, hip and thoracic spine (upper back) are meant to be mobile…the knee and lumbar spine (lower back) are meant for stability. Because we spend so much time sitting (at our desks, computers, in the car), often in a somewhat “hunched over” position, our upper backs and hips are subject to extended periods of time in less than optimal positions.
As a result, our Western society as a whole is far less mobile in the upper back and hip area than we should be (and ankles aren’t much better). All of this impacts how we move…way, way more than probably most of you realize. While we might all benefit from more stretching, what everyone really should be doing and very, very few are doing, is mobility work. While yoga has been popular for years and people are willing to buy their own mat and spend 90 minutes in a hot room dripping sweat 6 inches from the person next to them…there are no “mobility classes.” Maybe it needs a sexy name, a certification and association with some exotic culture to get us interested.
So before I lose your interest, let’s get to what you should be doing. Today I am posting a thoracic spine (t-spine)mobility drill that you can try out. There are actually many good t-spine mobility drills, and I will give you some additional ones to try later. For now I want you to try this one…go ahead, it’s okay, you can do it right now. While there is often heated debate about when and how you should stretch, to my knowledge there are no heated debates about the proper time to do mobility work. I do my mobility work before I lift, as part of my warm-up, but in theory you could do it while taking a break in your office.
This is the one I want you to try today. I know, the video is almost 3 minutes long…worth it!! Nick Tumminello does a great job of explaining this mobility drill, and I like this version where you sit back on your heels in order to take any low back movement (a.k.a. cheating) out of it. Please note that while Nick talks about bringing the elbow to “12 o’clock” or in a straight line with your support arm, you may not be able to do this…Nick has worked at this and is mobile…good chance you are not. Just try to bring that elbow up towards the ceiling to the degree you are able…with time you can get a greater range of motion and will be able to achieve the degree of mobility that Nick has.
I started off thinking this would be a single post, but it is getting really long…hope you are still awake. I will post part 2 later this week with more drills and information about mobility of the ankle and hips, and how mobility work can help your knees and low back.