Floss (Your Joints) Daily
Written by Kirsten Ahrendt
Beyond thinking about intensity, complexity or duration of movement, start thinking about moving every joint in your body every day. Some folks call this “flossing your joints” others prescribe a 5-10 minute mobility routine, or if you’re of the Mind-Muscle clan, you call it a whole body CAR’s routine. Regardless of what you do – consciously moving each joint in your body every day will help you retain full range of motion (ROM) at each joint, stay injury free, and maximize the time you DO workout.
The All-too-Common Sitting Scenario
How many of us sit for 8+ hours per day at work? Then how many of us go home and sit down for dinner?…And watch TV…and scroll through our phone. Damn that’s a lot of sitting. It’s not even the sitting that’s bad, it’s the accumulated time in the SAME POSITION that has detrimental effects. Sure! We hit the gym for 60-90 minutes, but there’s no way that the 90 minutes is enough to counteract the 8-12+ hours spent in a seated position.
The Mind-Body-Mobility Equation
The range of motion we have at each joint is highly correlated to two factors:
#1 – How frequently we express movement at that joint.
#2 – Does our brain view a certain position as “safe”?
#1 – The expression “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is applicable here. If you don’t spend time in dorsiflexion (closing the angle between your shin and toes) due to the activities you do daily, then the range of motion your ankle can express will correspondingly restrict to the movements that you DO take it through. This makes sense if you think about it; let’s put it in a language you understand…if you only ever squat to 1/4 depth, you will get strong in that range of motion. You will not magically have strength in a full-depth squat.
#2 – The brain is the keeper of all things. It’s main job is to keep us safe, and it will restrict our ability to move into certain positions in order to “keep us safe”. How does the brain perceive a certain position as safe? It considers the following:
– Can the muscles around that joint activate properly?
– Is it painful to go into certain ROMs?
– Are the tissues (ligaments/tendons/muscles) conditioned (re: strong enough) to be LOADED in that position?
– Has there been trauma to that area/ROM previously?
If this criteria is/is not met, the brain will shut down the ROM able to be expressed at joints. Which means you can’t raise your arm over your head or behind you, or get your knees to go past your toes in a squat, making your squat look an awful lot like a Good Morning (expert tip: squats should not look like good mornings).
While the brain is trying to keep us safe, sometimes the brain is lazy. If you don’t remind it that your body CAN do something, it will send resources elsewhere. Hence the need for daily reminders of movement. For example – if you never “talk to your shoulder blades” your brain won’t magically remember how to depress and retract a shoulder when you do a pull-up. Or maybe it will. But I see a lot of people who have convinced me otherwise.
In Smooth Move Summary
Move your body daily! Not for the sake of exercise or blood flow or blood pressure (although, those benefits are great). If you don’t want to be old and crotchety when you’re 50, 60, 70+ make sure of the following:
– Your spine moves like warm butter not cold bricks.
– Your hips can rotate like Shakira (or something nearly as sexy).
– Your ankles are bendy like Beckham.
– Your wrists can still dance to the Macarena.
– Your shoulders… well, shoot, your shoulders need to point up, out and behind you.
You don’t need to spend 30 of your 60 daily available “movement/workout” minutes wiggling your fingers and toes. Find a way to express full ROM that works for you! Maybe it’s dancing – or Tai Chi, or a Mind Muscle class, or a morning CARs routine. Get creative and find movements that provide bang for your buck. But know that sometimes you just need to sit and teach your brain to communicate to each part of your body independently – segmented spinal cat/cows anyone?
Coach Kirsten’s Pro Tip
Here’s some of my favorite ways to communicate and teach all ranges of movement to my body: Dance! If that’s not available try movements such as…
– Turkish Get-Ups
– Cossack Squats/Lateral Lunges
– Over/Unders (hip warm-up)
– Scapular Push-Ups & BBoys
– Horse Stance + Swimmers
– Internal Hip Rotations (in squat position or seated on ground)
– Shin Box
– Sitting in the bottom of a squat
There’s so many more! Ask our coaching team by dropping a comment – we each have our own go-to movements!