Joint mobility was something I was definitely NOT naturally gifted at. One of my first exposures to joint mobility was an enlightening experience, but it certainly didn’t go the way I expected or wanted. All throughout my first class, after being taught each exercise, my body still did not know what to do. I would think to myself, “I can’t move my neck like THAT,” and at the time I really couldn’t. I had a plethora of pre-conditions, one of which is called Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) – what happens when certain muscles forget how to contract properly (or at all). It really frustrated me seeing someone else being able to enjoy the freedom of movement that I couldn’t even mimic – the coach, Steve Maxwell, being 54 years old at the time. When Steve was tilting, I was twisting; when he was bending, I was rolling. I was even used as a class example of what NOT to do!
The beginner level joint mobility exercises were excruciating. I was aghast at how something that looks so easy and is at a beginner-level could be so challenging for me. I was accustomed to performing well at fitness or athletic activities. Well, joint mobility broke me down. And I don’t even want to bring up the intermediate exercises – bad memories. Thankfully, we didn’t advance any further than the intermediate level. I already looked pretty goofy by actually trying to keep up with the rest of the class.
Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.
The only way I can describe my first joint mobility experience was that it was like wearing a straight jacket around my entire body, all wrapped up in agony and immobility.
While I had used joint mobility exercises in pieces, here and there, I had never taken an entire class before. It was a humbling experience, and I knew that I had to work on restoring my range of motion. Little did I know that I was about to unlock a door to movement mastery and lifelong benefits.
My good friend, Kyle Battis, was kind enough to lend me a joint mobility exercise tape called Warrior Wellness by Scott Sonnon (yes it was VHS). There were three programs, beginner, intermediate, and advanced – each running 25 minutes and I would follow along with the program almost daily in the morning.
After each session, I would feel instantaneous results and just “feel good” and ready for anything. I must have looked pretty awkward performing the movements because I would get a lot of humorous comments from my family. After two weeks, I was noticing not only some immediate benefits, but my range of motion was actually improving. I was beginning to open up my joint capsules better and better. Every week, I would see new progress, and each day would not be complete without going through the program.
I spent four months just working through the beginner program, and then I finally took the intermediate program for a spin. The new program, which was just an outgrowth of the beginner program was like a whole new learning experience – even though the exercises were the same, just more sophisticated. It was like starting all over, but at this point I knew that I was receiving a host of benefits.
Not only was I restoring my range of motion at each joint, I was also coordinating and refining my overall movement. I felt like an athlete again. Only this time, I was a healthy athlete. All this time, I was abating joint injuries and healing scar tissue (remember that straight jacket I was wearing?). I remember my legs feeling like leather, completely trapped in set motor patterns and devoid of the ability to move freely. As an aside, I once had a physical therapist tell me that I had the tightest ilial tibial bands (the ligament on the outside of the thigh) she had seen in 20 years of practice. Talk about tension!
The advanced level came about another 6 months later, but I would refer back to beginner and intermediate level exercises at this point. Sometimes, I would have to go a little deeper into a specific area. Intuitively, I knew what I had to work on, so the follow along program was not necessary anymore. I had memorized all of the exercises.
Fast forward to 2007, I find out that Scott Sonnon has completely redone his joint mobility program. Immediately, I’m thinking “great, I haven’t even explored all of the possibilities with his first program!” It wasn’t too long before I picked up a copy of Intu Flow and found a much more refined program that was easier to follow along with and much more complete in its programming – an encyclopedia to movement health.
Since then, my daily personal practice of joint mobility has been an adventure – every day exploring new possibilities. I even had the pleasure of teaching classes at my church on Monday nights to share what I have come to love about movement and health.
If I could help people find one thing about fitness, it would be to help them find joint mobility exercise. It has been such a rewarding practice for me, that I can’t help but share it with others. Whatever your goals are – joint mobility exercise will open doors to health and fitness that conventional training will not provide. It is a pathway to movement excellence and mastery. But do keep in mind that this type of training is not for the fickle or the timid. While short-term benefits can be achieved by doing the exercises alone, long-term benefits will take consistent work and practice.
To your health and success,
Fitness Professional and Wellness Warrior
P.S. For more information about joint mobility training, I recommend Scott Sonnon’s Intu-Flow program here: http://www.rmaxi.com/products/intu-flow.html