How do we prevent injuries?

With the arrival of summer, we are all grinding out our fitness routines. Catalyst workouts, outdoor runs, classes, name it. Then BOOM! We get injured. 

Nothing pumps the brakes on your fitness progress (and that summer body) like being hit with an injury. So then the question is… how do we best prevent injuries? 

Is it warming up? Is it cooling down? Is it stretching?

What’s interesting is that you don’t see other species having to stretch before performing an explosive task in order to avoid injury. Imagine watching Discovery Channel and then you see this:

“Here we have the cheetah hunting its prey in the open savannah planes…wait, there he goes chasing the wild gazelle, the cheetah’s hot on his tail, he’s closing in…and oh no…he’s pulled up…he’s pulled a hamstring!”

We don't hear that because it's not all about stretching.  It’s not all about this idea that we need to warm up and cool down. Those are definitely components that we can take advantage of to help keep our body safe, but it's really about how we live our day-to-day lives. It’s about how we stay ready.

Do you know the difference between Mobility and Flexibility? 

As a simple test, try to accumulate ten minutes at the bottom of a squat. Feet just inside hip width apart and flat on the floor, neutral spine and chest proud. Now stay there for 10-min. If you are unable to get into this position, or have trouble staying there…then your body is not functioning optimally.  And for the record, holding this position while white-knuckled and red-faced doesn’t mean you have completed the test successfully. If you’re not relaxed and breathing normally – then you don’t own the position. 

Flexibilityis the passive ability of your soft tissue (muscles) to stretch. 

Mobility, on the other hand is much more important. It can be called one’s “ACTIVE usable range of motion”. Mobility contains many elements that contribute to movement with full range of motion - including muscle tissue, joint capsules, and motor control. Flexibility merely is a component of mobility.

Remember This!
Flexibility:length of your muscle
Mobility:how your joint actually moves

Therefore, a person with great mobility is able to perform functional movement patterns with no restrictions in the range of motion (ROM). A flexible person may or may not have the core strength, balance, or coordination to perform the same functional movements as the person with great mobility. It’s basically useless to have a high level of flexibility if your mobility is constricted by other factors.

Stiff upper back while driving? Tight hips?
So, why should you care? Beyond just working out in the gym, both mobility and flexibility affect your joint health in everyday life as well. Think about it this way: if you have a general mobility problem that affects how you move, your body isn’t going to be functioning in the way that it’s supposed to. Over time you can suffer more wear-and-tear and general discomfort. Also, when you’re exercising you are essentially performing these faulty movements under higher intensity and greater stress, so painful injuries can accumulate over time. 

Mobility is an indication of how well we can actually move as humans. 

The most common areas of reduced mobility occur in the hips, shoulders, ankles and upper back. 

“Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes it permanent”
- author unknown (about a thousand people take credit for this quote…I am not one of them). 

True mobility requires actual movement in order to train the joints, musculature and even the central nervous system. To fix an issue of mobility, you need motion and consistency. Adding in mobility work on a daily basis is the key to being in a state of readiness. 

To find out more on this topic, and how to address your specific concerns, feel free to reach out to one of the mobility specialists at Catalyst Health.

Dr. Craig McNamee 
BSc. Hon (Kin), DC, ART, CSCS.
Active Release Techniques Provider
Medical Acupuncture Provider
Conditioning Specialist


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