If your mobility is limited by a health condition or an accident, you may feel stuck or trapped in a body that doesn’t do what it used to. To improve your mobility, you’ll need to start with what works and build on it.
1) Tolerating More Joint Pressure
Part of mobility improvement is building strength through a full range of motion. If you have some movement in a joint that’s just fine, and some that hurts at some point, try getting in the water to jog or walk. Taking pressure off the joint may allow more movement, which can help you build more strength. Stay close to the wall for balance, and if your local pool has a warm side, use it.
2) Warming Up Slowly
If you’re struggling with hip, knee or ankle pain, start with a short stride. Stay in the slow lane. Work to engage your core by pulling your navel back toward your spine and clenching your glutes. As these big muscles engage and start to warm up, open your stride. Focus on a heel to toe roll as your foot hits the track, and consider adding a slight arm pump to your motion to up your speed, rather than lengthening your stride. If heel to toe isn’t comfortable, open your stride to a bit of a duck-walk, with toes pointing slightly out, to engage your inner thighs.
3) Focus on Form
Coming off a shoulder injury can be very frustrating, especially if you have a history of working out with weights. Go back to the 5 pound rack, or just work the motion with no weight at all while a trainer or physical therapist watches. Get the form memory correct before you add more weight.
4) Stabilize the Core
A simple way to improve your core strength and your hip flexibility is to use an exercise ball instead of an office chair. For best results, use the ball in a small space, or put down a stabilizing ring made of a rolled up beach towel to keep the ball from rolling too far. You’ll need to keep your feet further apart than allowed in a chair, which will stretch your hips. Keep your shoulders up and your navel pulled back toward your spine for best results.
5) Use Your Own Weight
Consider using a wall-mounted bar with straps that allow you to determine the weight of your move by the placement of your feet. Start shallow and get the form and feeling right before you step out further and put more pressure on the move. Avoid the rush. If you’re working out at the gym and coming off an injury, try to go early in the morning as soon as they open or during the afternoon lull. Avoid the after work crowd; the place will be packed and you won’t feel comfortable making slow, sweeping movements.
6) Increase Flexibility
If mobility is limited, it can be tempting to start stretching right away. However, flexibility and mobility are quite different. Loose joints are nice, but they may not be strong. Mobility is about building consistent strength through the full range of motion. Consider signing up for a yoga or tai chi class, and let the instructor know you’re coming off an injury. If you feel pain, stop. Even if you can’t do a full class without having to adjust, consider bringing the problem moves back to the pool. You can take things at your own pace and suffer less pain and impingement thanks to the buoyancy of the water.
No matter the source of you injury or limitation, you’re going to have to take it slow. At no point does it mean that you can’t rebuild mobility, but every timeline is different. Strength through the motion will be inherently out of balance if you’ve been in a splint or brace, so move slow and focus on form instead of intensity.