One of my goals this year has been to become more flexible. It is something I’ve been focused on a lot in my own training and in my skaters’ training. Recently I’ve felt like I’ve hit a plateau in my flexibility and am frustrated when I don’t notice improvements when I watch videos of myself skate. So I decided to break down exactly what I meant when I say I want to become more flexible.
This is what I came up with: I want to increase my range of motion when I skate so I can extend my leg further and lift it higher during routines. The more articles I read on how to achieve this, the more I realised that I actually meant I want to increase my mobility.
Flexibility is the length of a muscle. To test this, stand up and with straight knees reach down and try and touch your toes. This measures how far you can lengthen your hamstrings and your back muscles.
Mobility refers to how much a joint moves. Mobility is an umbrella term and made up of different components. Flexibility affects mobility because if your muscle can’t be lengthened then it will affect the range of motion. Soft tissue also affects joint movement. For example tight connective tissue surrounding muscles, joint architecture, damaged tendons or ligaments will affect mobility also. The last component is strength. Being able to touch your toes is useless if you are not strong enough to lift your leg off the ground. Therefore, this whole time I’ve said I want to be flexible I actually meant I want to increase my mobility.
The 3S’s to increase joint mobility
1. Self massage: otherwise known as foam rolling. If you can’t get regular massages, it’s a good idea to invest in a foam roller and/or massage balls to help out with tight muscles. As well as loosening up tight muscles to help increase range of motion, a study found that massage helps turn on the genes that reduce inflammation and increase mitochondria production. Mitochondria help with cell recovery. This will mean you can reduce the time between trainings, helping you get back in the gym or skating rink faster.
2. Stretching: There are mixed opinions about when, how and why to stretch. There’s no doubt that lengthening the muscle by holding a stretch will improve range of motion at rest. There’s mixed opinions about whether it actually helps with muscle recovery but it sure does feel good and it will help you relax and calm back down after a hard day or training session.
The absolute best and golden way to stretch for flexibility is to hold each stretch for 3 sets of 30 seconds. Yes this takes a long time to do the whole body but it’s so worth it! I use the interval timer app and set it to beep every 30 seconds so I can change positions. I like stretching before bed, after training or first thing in the morning.
3. Strength: Being flexible is well and good but it is useless if you aren’t strong enough to hold your leg up with a skate! Once you’ve worked on your flexibility, you have to work on lifting and holding your leg up. This can be as easy as standing next to the rail at your rink and lifting and holding your leg in front of you, to the side and behind you. Make sure you use your glutes and engage your core throughout. You can also add dynamic stretches to your warm up routine to increase active range of motion so that your muscles also lengthen when you move.
If you’d like more information on how to increase your mobility, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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