The State of Affairs
The majority of people in first world countries spend more time sitting than sleeping. That’s staggering and sad. This is partially due to the fact that we are sleeping less and less. We are sleep deprived, which is proven to decrease performance in any number of metrics, both physical and mental. We also engineered a way to be simultaneously overfed and malnourished, which is impressive in its own right and something humans have only been able to accomplish in the late twentieth century through processed foods. This has allowed an overconsumption of calorically-dense foods that provide zero micronutrient (vitamin & mineral) content. This has come hand-in-hand with dramatic decreases in water intake and activity levels.
We are sleep-deprived, malnourished, overfat, dehydrated, inflamed, de-conditioned and metabolically broken. So yeah, your hips are tight. But your hormone profile is also jacked, your aerobic system is compromised, and your adrenals are fried. We can do what we’ve been trained to do -sit around- or we can deal with the roots of the problem if we wish for a different set of symptoms.
So you want to be mobile?
Let’s stop spray painting the leaves green and start watering the roots. Sure, I can (and will) give you stretches to do to improve your focal points, but the bottom line is if you don’t deal with the roots, it will keep popping back up. The following list is meant to be a tangible reminder of some of the ways you can improve your mobility, movement, health and overall happiness in life for that matter.
Oh and by the way, I don’t know anyone who meets all the criteria on the list that has very poor mobility or doesn’t show dramatic improvements.
(1) Train under your Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV).
Your nervous system will create tension after trauma (exercise-induced damage, inflammation and soreness) to prevent further damage to joints, as well as connective and contractile tissue. Realize that your lifestyle will limit the quality of your movement, which will cause more damage through the same ranges as a more mobile athlete. In other words, don’t “overtrain” and expect to improve your functioning joint ranges.
(2) Clean Up the Diet
Food can be the best medicine or the worst poison. Literally the food you eat can save your life or kill you. Now, there needs to be a degree of separation here between eating for health and performance, but there are more commonalities and overlap then differences. Athletes don’t always eat the rawest forms of food in the name of absorption rate and avoiding GI distress. A good example would be brown versus white rice. The husk, bran, and germ are removed from brown rice to create white rice, which potentially can be of benefit to an athlete in some situations (pre or post-workout, intra-competition, high volume days, “hard gainers,” etc.). However, athletes (including those who work at desks) often fall into the trap of needing calories through any means necessary and opt for processed foods that trigger an inflammatory response in the body. Minimizing -and avoiding unnecessary- inflammation through training (a stressful, inflaming event) is one of the keys to ensure long-term resiliency in your body as a whole. This includes your resiliency and adaptability to mobility protocols.
(3) Sleep More
You sleep to repair yourself. That statement has many layers to it, but that’s all you really need to know. More sleep means more repair. Less sleep equals under repaired. Read “damaged.” Therefore, accumulating a sleep debt is no different than accumulating damage. Damaged people don’t respond well to any number of stressors: from conflict in relationships to learning new skills, and strength protocols to mobility work. You have two options: sleep more (or) do less stressful forms of exercise. In other words, raise your MRV threshold or lower your training volume so you are under your MRV.
(4) Move More Often with Less Intensity
First, let’s address your time in the gym. Don’t be afraid to take steps back in training now to be able to move forward again later. Take some weight off the bar and position your joints in a better orientation. Take an extra five minutes in your warm-up and cut some of the volume in the workout. Learn new movements and refine old ones. Do your accessory work.
Related Read: The Top 25 Accessory Exercises for CrossFit®
Second, let’s talk about movement as a whole. Movement isn’t inherently stressful. In fact, some of the most restorative things humans can do involve movement. Think about how much better you feel after walking for several minutes. Your energy increases, mood improves, tight muscles relax, headaches clear and the magnitude in which you perceive your stressors shrinks. Muscular contraction pushes blood and lymph through all the tissues of the body removing wastes and carrying life-giving oxygen and substrate. Want soft tissue quality to improve and joint irritations to fade? Get out of your chair and move more often. Set alarms if you can’t trust yourself to remember.
(5) Target Your 5 Focal Points
Stretching. We are here. Finally.
As a desk athlete, stretching (what most people call “mobility work”) will actually always be a small piece of the mobility pie. You can’t overcome the other four factors with an excellent stretching protocol. But, if all the other factors are aligned and optimized for adaptation, then you can make significant progress with this final tool.
As a person who spends much of your day stationary (often seated) there will be five key focal points you will want to target and offset.
1. Short Neck Flexors & Tonic Neck Extensors & Upper Traps
2. Pronated Hands (aka. The Keyboard Warrior)
3. Tight Chest
4. Rounded T-Spine
5. Short & Tight Hip Flexors
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