Gillian Johnson is one of STYLE Canada‘s wellness experts based out of NYC. Since hanging up her court shoes as a professional volleyball player, she’s pursued her passion for health and fitness by working as a trainer and creating programs for weight loss, muscle gain, pain management, and nutrition. On style.ca, you’ll find her sharing guides to achieving optimal health and fitness, and the following Lifesaving Morning Mobility Series is her first for STYLE Canada. Pull on your leggings, roll out your mat, and get started!
At one time or another, you’ve likely been told that stretching right after you wake up is the best way to start your day. Loosening up your muscles, stretching the ones supporting your spine, and moving your joints gets your circulation pumping after a long slumber, bringing your mind and body to attention. Though whether or not we actually put a stretching routine into practice is a whole different ballgame.
It’s true that stretching is effective when it comes to increasing blood circulation and making muscles limber, but you and your body can benefit more from performing mobility exercises. Kiss your days of exclusively static stretching goodbye!
If you’re constantly on the go, you’re probably seeking a mobility routine that yields the best results in the least amount of time. If this is the case, then morning mobility exercises are always going to be the way to go. But first – what’s the difference between mobile exercise and stretching you ask?
Stretching is the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion. Think of a classic seated hamstring stretch: when you get into position, the body of the muscle is being lengthened while you hold the position.
Mobility, on the other hand, is the ability of the joint to move actively through a range of motion. Think of mobile exercise as a form of stretching that incorporates movement in order to activate your joints.
Simply put: if you’re trying to stretch a muscle over a joint that has a mobility restriction, you’re getting nowhere fast. Now, let’s go back to that hamstring stretch we talked about. If you’re holding that passive hamstring stretch and your hip joint is the point of restriction, it won’t matter how much you stretch – you’ll always feel like you have ‘tight’ hamstrings. The muscle will not be able to lengthen to its full potential because the joint won’t allow it to. A mobility exercise will engage your hips, helping solve the real problem and produce results much quicker.
Start your day off right with the following five mobility exercises that increase circulation and relieve joint and muscle stiffness.
On The Go Morning Mobility Routine
Bow and arrow: Start laying on your back with your arms out in a ‘T’ position. Lift your left leg off the ground, bend your knee at 90 degrees, and cross it over your body. Hold for five seconds.
Bring your left arm across your body to meet your right arm and let yourself fall to your right shoulder. Hold briefly.
Sweep your left arm above your head, tracing the ground in a half moon shape. Continuously and slowly move through this position. Make sure your eyes follow your left hand the whole time. Continue until you end up in starting position.
*Repeat this five times before switching sides.*
Hip and external rotation: Start in a seated position with your legs in front of you and your feet planted on the ground, slightly wider than hip-width apart.
Let the right knee fall inward as far as possible. When you feel a stretch, hold that position for five seconds. You should be on the inside edge of your foot on the right side. Make sure your left leg doesn’t move.
After holding the internal rotation for five seconds, let your leg fall outward (moving to the outside edge of the right foot). Go as far as possible without letting your left leg move.
*Complete five internal and external rotations before moving to the left leg.*
Next: Start on your hands and knees. Keep your knees wide and your feet together. Sit back onto your heels and bring your right hand behind your head. Start by rotating to the left as though you are trying to touch your right elbow to your left wrist. Go as far as possible, keeping both hips planted on your heels. Hold for five seconds.
After holding for five seconds, reach your right elbow toward the ceiling. Go as far as you can so that you feel a nice stretch through your mid-back. Hold for five seconds before returning to Position 1.
*Complete five times before switching to the other side.*
World’s greatest stretch: Start with your left foot forward in a long lunge position. Plant your right hand on the mat and reach your left forearm as close to the mat as possible. Try to keep your back leg straight. Hold for two or three seconds.
Keeping the legs in the same position, sweep your left arm to the ceiling. Hold this rotation for two or three seconds.
Plant both hands on either side of your front leg. Bend the back knee and straighten the front leg as you shift back into a hamstring stretch. Keeping your back flat, hold for two or three seconds and then return to Position 1.
*Complete five times before switching to the other side.*
Standing quad and ‘figure 4’: Start in a standing up straight, holding a wall for support. Reach with your right hand toward your right foot. In this standing quad stretch, make sure that you’re standing tall and your thighs are in line with one another. Hold for two or three seconds.
From your standing quad stretch, release your right leg and cross it over your left thigh (just above the left knee). With a flat back, sink down like you’re sitting in a chair. You should feel this stretch in the outside of the right hip. Hold for two or three seconds before returning to Position 1.
*Complete five times each before switching to the other side.*