October 21, 2017 | 38 minute read
Published in Keep Going
25 Lesser-Known Tips for Mobility and Wellness
In the past decade, mobility has emerged as a central concept in the world of fitness. At the intersection of strength-training and physiotherapy, mobility suggests an integrated approach to fitness so that every aspect of physical efficiency is taken into account. After all, the point of working out isn't just to look good, it's to feel at your absolute best.
In this guide we're going to cover 25 lesser-known tips applicable to the wide world of mobility, inclusive of nutrition, fitness and exercise, movement and stretching, and general wellness. The focus here is on compiling easily-implemented, effective, and expert-approved suggestions that may be less than obvious to the average mobility-conscious person. Some may be familiar, some not, but we hope you'll find a few to help you in your overall effort to stay fit and active!
1. Reboot Your Forward Head Posture by Flapping Your Arms
So using a computer 10-hours a day without paying attention to your posture has made you into a hunchback? You're not alone! Your posture can be brought back to life through easy exercises that can be done almost anywhere, as demonstrated in a multi-million view count video by physiotherapist “Rekrain” that's been receiving ringing endorsements on fitness message boards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT_dFRnmdGs.
Stand with your back and heels against a wall and, with your chin tucked down, touch the wall with the back of your head directly – without tipping your head back. This won't be easy if your posture is bad, so you might need a pillow to help make up the difference.
Then, with chin still tucked, go through 10 reps of the following three exercises, which stimulate in turn the C-5-8 nerves that dodgy computer posture pinches.
Palms facing the floor, "flap" your arms.
Palms facing the floor, lift them to cover your ears, and then back.
Fists semi-closed and facing forward, raise and lower each arm in alternation, as if climbing an imaginary rope ladder or scratching a giant's back.
Repeat these 10 reps through 3 sets, twice a day, for a month, and noticeable results will follow.
2. Juice is Almost as Bad as Soda: Try These Instead
Everyone knows sodas are heavy on processed sugar and corrosive phosphates and low on nutrients, but it's less obvious that fruit juice, the most common alternative, is almost as bad for you – a recent survey found that 76% of consumers still think fruit juice is a healthy alternative to pop.
In reality, when fruit juice is separated from the whole fruit – especially its fibre – it becomes an efficient delivery system for loads of fructose into the bloodstream, causing the same difficult-to-metabolize calorie spike that makes soda so unhealthy. Dr. Barry Popkin – the same nutrition scientist that called out sugary soft drinks a generation ago – has called fruit juice consumption the latest evolution of the same problem.
Try these easy flavour alternatives instead:
Home-blended juices mixed with leafy greens like kale and spinach and vegetables like carrots. The juice will not only be nutrient rich, but will also retain more fibre, making it more metabolism-efficient and satisfying.
Steeped lemon, lime, or orange in filtered water.
Flavoured iced green teas with pure organic stevia.
3. Use a Tennis Ball as a Targeted Foam Roller
The foam roller has come to be recognized as a mobility centerpiece. This is because it's a highly function form of self-myofascial release: basically, a poor man's massage, that serves to loosen up tensed muscles, allowing for better bloodflow and range of motion.
The lowly tennis ball doesn't get as much love, but it also has an important role to play. Paul Ingraham, a massage therapist and science writer, advises using a tennis ball when targeting specific tension points is preferable to the spread-out stretch of a foam roller.
Tennis ball massage is usually the most useful in hard to get to places (like the back and hips) that you can target by putting the tennis ball between your body and the floor or wall.
4. Use Coconut Oil in Your Coffee Instead of Milk and Sugar For Extra Energy and Easier Digestion
Brian Gallagher, co-founded of Throwback Fitness, takes coconut oil in his coffee instead of cream. There are a few reasons that Coconut Oil is such a great complement to coffee:
It provides a second energy boost without increasing the strain your system. Coconut oil provides a calorie hit while it's lightweight chemical structure allows it to bypass regular fat metabolism and to be digested directly by the liver.
For similar reasons, the digestion of coconut oil doesn't cause a spike in blood sugar or insulin levels – it actually helps to keep them in control.
No shyness here. The fats in coconut oil help to lubricate the digestive tract and soften stool, aiding with regularity.
All this in addition to the smattering of other benefits usually associated with the oil.
5. Walk Barefoot at Home to Increase Foot Mobility
Kelly Starrett, famous mobility guru, says of barefoot walking: “It's fantastic. You're born with your heel on the ground... if you're wearing any sneaker, it typically has a heel... that heel is the equivalent of a high heel shoe – 2cm, 4cm – it doesn't matter. We've taken the center of mass and kicked it forward... you're binding your heel cords and your center of mass is off... walking around barefoot made your feet really strong.”
Walking with shoes on and walking barefoot exercise and strain the foot in different ways. Diversifying your foot exercise by walking barefoot more will improve your overall foot mechanics and decrease the pressure on your hips and knees. You'll also improve the range of motion of your ankle, which can help guard against a variety of injuries.
6. Do Rows at Home Using Only a Bedsheet
Rows are a fanastic exercise for improving posture and preparing for pull-ups. Antranik, a personal trainer and popular video blogger, recommends the following technique so that you can do this efficient exercise at home:
"My favorite minimalistic way is to simply get a bedsheet, make a knot at the end of it, throw it over the door, close the door shut, hold the sheet and row, row, row your boat! The lower you hold onto it, the harder it will be" (https://youtu.be/rloXYB8M3vU).
7. Try Low-Fat Chocolate Milk as an Easy Post-Workout Booster
In recent years, a variety of research has shown low-fat chocolate milk to be a great, readily-available, and chemical-free choice of post-workout drink. Clint Wattenberg, Cornell’s coordinator of sports nutrition, calls it “the gold standard for a recovery beverage” and Joel Stager, physiologist and director of the Human Performance laboratory at Indiana University, “the optimal post-exercise recovery aid”.
Chocolate Milk has double the protein and carbohydrate content of plain milk and most sports drinks, perfect for replenishing tired muscles, and the sugar and salt content is easily metabolized in the post-workout state.
8. Stretch Your Pec Minor to Improve Posture
Jeff Oriente, a personal trainer and video blogger, calls this Pec Minor stretch the single stretch he most recommends.
The Pec Minor is a lesser-known muscle that connects your shoulder blade to your upper ribs. Not only does it frequently go ignored, but its one of the muscles that suffers most from sedentary habits like prolonged computer use. As it tightens up, it conditions bad posture and rounded shoulders, and increases the chance of shoulder injury.
Go into the corner of a room, and put one arm on each wall. Then, facing the wall, slide your elbows up above your shoulders, lean into the wall, and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Aim to do this three times a day, every day.
The technique is demonstrated here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrHS0krMEOY.
Two Lightning Fast Protein Snacks
Getting healthy protein before or after a workout is crucial, but practicality can be a limiting factor.
A highly upvoted comment on Reddit's fitness forum by user EdBuryn suggests two quick and dead easy recipes.
Protein Banana Pancakes:
Just put two eggs and a banana together in a pan, mash, and fry!
(If you like your protein pancakes a little less basic you can always add some of these accouterments to suit your own nutritional parameters: Oats, Greek Yoghurt, Blueberries and Raspberries.)
Fry 3 eggs with Italian spices with a lid on for 5 minutes. Once the egg is solid, spread on tomato sauce, toppings, and finish with cheese. Then, just throw the lid back on until the ingredients are the desired temperature.
10. Add a Drop of Peppermint Oil to Your Water Before Workouts for Better Stamina
I know – it sounds flaky. But recent research, including a peer-reviewed article in Journal of the International Study of Sport's Nutrition, has corroborated long-standing claims by long-distance runners about the benefits of peppermint oil. One drop in 16 ounces of water about an hour before your workout allows an almost 20% increase in stamina.
Bek, the Editor-in-Chief of SLOcyclist.com, describes initial skepticism but eventual conversion and, of the use of peppermint oil, writes that: “of all of the other oils I’ve tried, peppermint sits well atop the crowd for immediate impact” (http://slocyclist.com/essential-oils-for-cyclists-triathletes/).
11. Skip Sit-Ups, Do Planks Instead
In case you missed the memo, sit-ups are out and planks are in. A recent article from the Harvard Medical School called plank exercises "the gold standard for working your core".
Two main reasons why:
Sit-ups are a lot riskier for spinal strain. Not only do they have your spine pushing against the floor, but the exercise has your hip flexors tugging at your lower spine, which can easily go wrong.
Plank exercises work a broader group of muscles, better representative of your core's actual function during everyday mobility and fitness.
So forget sit-ups if you haven't already.
12. Instead of Pulling-Up, Imagine Pulling-Down
Pull-ups are a great compound exercise for working your upper-body, but doing them, and doing them in good form, can be a challenge.
The next time you're doing pull-ups, instead of just pulling yourself up, imagine that you're pulling the bar down, bringing your elbows down and back. This will help activate your lats, helping to correct your form and making the exercise feel easier.
13. Use Cursing as a Painkiller
Swearing is a proven painkiller. A recent study out of the UK's Keele University found that subjects could stand immersing their hands in icy water for longer while repeating a swearword. Of course, this corresponds to our natural tendency to unleash a litany of cusswords whenever we accidentally do something painful.
Leverage this natural anesthetic as much as the setting permits during workouts to get through those last few miles or reps. You might have to contribute a few quarters to your gym's swear jar, but it'll be worth it.
14. Prioritize Power Fruits and Vegetables – like Kiwi, Broccoli, and Sweet Potatoes
If your food preferences are flexible, you should be making the most of fruits and veggies that pack maximum nutrients. Everyone knows about kale by now, but here are a few other suggestions:
Kiwi: Kiwi is one of the only fruits that has more Vitamin-C per gram than an orange. It's also a potent source of anti-oxidants and fiber, aiding in the neutralization and digestion of less agreeable foods in your diet.
Broccoli: Besides being loaded with a variety of different nutrients, Broccoli has been identified for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-detoxification properties, all of which help to reduce the chance of cancer. Steam it instead of boiling if you want to retain more Vitamin-C and phyto-nutrients!
Sweet Potatoes:Sweet Potatoes have more beta-carotene per gram than carrots, and are a superlative source of Vitamin-A, and help to regulate blood sugar.
All this and more expert-tested food advice can be found on: http://www.whfoods.com/.
15. Use Cronometer to Log Your Diet
This is not a paid plug! We just think Cronometer is a really cool app: it lets you log your diet, and then shows you what vitamins or nutrients you're running low on, allowing you to correct it or to supplement it with surgical precision. Be sure to check it out: https://cronometer.com/.
16. Incorporate the Resting Squat in Your Everyday Routine
Shawn Stevenson, the creator of the most popular fitness podcast on iTunes, recently brought up new research about the health consequences of sitting for prolonged periods of time.
The harsh 90-degree sitting position we're accustomed to stresses certain muscles while totally shutting off others - a pretty dysfunctional state of affairs. This posture has caused us to neglect the simple flat-footed squat - a fundamental body posture and resting position for human-beings. Reintegrating the resting squat back into your everyday posture rotation is an easy way to improve hip, knee, and ankle mobility.
Some good times to fit it in are while boiling water for coffee or tea, after a workout session, or any time following having your glutes stuck sitting in a chair.
17. Adjust Your Computer Monitor for Ideal Posture
Attack bad posture at the root by making sure you're sitting properly at your computer – shoulders relaxed, body neither rigid nor slouched.
Adjusting your computer setup is a great way to help keep in good form. Besides getting a chair with good lumbar support, or making the jump to a standing desk, take the simple step of adjusting your computer monitor:
The point a few inches down from the top of the monitor should be at eye level, and about an arm's length away from where you're sitting.
18. Adjust Your Mobile Phone for Ideal Posture
... And while you're at it, why not change the way you read texts?
Kelly Starrett suggests bringing your phone to eye level so the head and back don't round and condition slouching, calling this a habit that affects athletic performance even if it doesn't lead to pain.
19. Stiff Neck? Try Trunk Rotations for Quick Improvement
Dealing with a sore neck after a bad sleep or tough workout is brutal. Physical Therapist Susan McLaughlin recommends the following method for some quick improvement.
Assess your neck motion by rotating your head to the right and to the left and noting a landmark when you can't rotate further without discomfort.
Then, crossing your arms high in front of you and keeping your head and gaze forward, rotate your trunk left 15 times. And, then, right 15 times.
"99.9% of the time" you will gain motion.
20. Cottage Cheese Makes a Great Midnight Snack
Your body uses energy even when you sleep. As such, a bedtime snack is a good idea for stabilizing your blood sugar levels, especially after an early dinner or a busy day. Still, because of decreased metabolic processes, the snack should be chosen wisely.
Cottage cheese is a great choice because the kind of protein it contains is very slow digesting, ensuring a steady supply of amino acids through the night. A spoonful of natural peanut butter is a tasty add-on that further slows digestion times.
21. Optimize Your Blender Usage: Two “Bro”-Tips
The more efficient you make your blender usage, the easier it'll be to keep to your routine.
First, you can save time by drinking straight out of your blender and then cleaning it in a flash by just pouring in warm water and dish soap, blending, and rinsing!
Second, did you know that the rim of a mason jar fits the standardized rim size used by most blending devices? Make yourself a drink to go in a single step by blending directly into a mason jar, and then putting on a lid.
22. Test Your Ankle Mobility with Tape
Ankles are the most used joints in the body. We depend on their mobility not only for running and quick foot movements, but for helping serve as a stable hinge for lower-body-based big lifts. Still, ankle mobility is often left as an afterthought, resulting in strain on adjacent areas and injuries.
So: how are your ankles?
Andrew Millett, an orthopedic physical therapist, recommends the following test to see how much mobility work your ankles need:
"Place your foot on a tape strip that is 4 inches away from the wall. With your foot in a neutral position, attempt to touch your knee to the wall without going into valgus or varus collapse. Do not let your heel come off the ground.
If you can perform this without letting the knee move medially/laterally OR letting your heel come off the ground, you have the pre-requisite ankle mobility to be performing lower body training." (https://youtu.be/hg7WrV2sFfU)
23. Incorporate Overhead Get-Ups Into Your Routine
Taco Fleur, a multi-certified personal trainer and the owner of Cavemantraining.com, identifies the overhead get-up as "the best all-round exercise to work on your mobility".
If you've ever done Crossfit before, you'll be familiar with this foundational exercise that basically involves hoisting a kettlebell in several different positions as one goes from supine to standing. At the same time as this exercise develops ankle, shoulder, hip, knee, and thoradic mobility, it can also function as a core workout and strength training, depending on how you tweak it.
Even if you're not doing Crossfit, invest in a kettlebell, and learn and incorporate this versatile and variable exercise into your routine.
24. Trick Your Brain Into Thinking It's Doing Less by Counting Differently
When performing several repetitions of an exercise, like push-ups, use the same counting technique used by the US Army to help trick your body into doing more work.
For every one-count, do two reps. Down and up, down and up, “1”. Down and up, down and up “2”.
Your mind will register half as much work as your body will actually be doing.
25. Eat Healthy Snacks that Feel Like Junk Food – Like Popcorn and Pickles
Baby carrots and kale chips are certainly healthy snacks, but they also feel cloyingly healthy. Mix in some snacks that make your brain feel like it's having a cheat day, even when it isn't.
Air-popped Popcorn with Nutritional Yeast or Garlic Powder: Air-popped popcorn has the advantage of not using any oil, which adds to the fat and calorie content. Avoid melted butter, but garnish with salt (in moderation), garlic powder, or nutritional yeast – a protein-packed powder often used as a cheese alternative.
Pickles: Pickles (or any pickled veggie) are a great low-calories source of probiotics and anti-oxidants. They contain salt, but in moderation and without high blood pressure, they're a great choice to pair with a beer after a long day.