It was late one Tuesday night in Chicago and I was determined to get some circuit training in at Lincoln Park Athletic Club. They have a lot of great equipment and all the tools anyone should need to fulfill their every fitness desire. Despite the late hour of 7:00 p.m., the lovely kettlebell set they have upstairs enticed me to layer-up and stroll on over the the gym.
I quickly hit some intervals on the treadmill for 15 minutes to warm-up. After, my heart rate was up, blood was pumping and I began this circuit (if I remember correctly):
80% max pull-ups
10 hand stand pushups
10 KB swings
bottoms up carry
15 tuck jumps
Bottoms up carry, you ask?
I was almost done with tuck jumps and about to begin the bottoms-up carry and I could feel this very tall man’s eyes on me. I began to play the “I don’t see you” game– until the 7’4” man made sure I saw him by walking up right in front of me mid-tuck jump.
He tapped my shoulder.
In a Bulgarian accent he said, “Before you jump, you must learn to land.”
“Okay, Mr. Miyagi,”I thought. at least this was not a pick-up line, “phew.”
Startled, I said, “Wait, excuse me? You mean, I should land softer?”
“Yes. Softer. And who it is, if I can know, that taught you these movements?” He asked with a thick accent.
Looking up I said, “Well I made the workout. I train people and teach group fitness but learned a lot at a kettlebell gym down the street called Rebell.”
“Do you do mobility exercises?” He asked.
Before I could answer he interrupted and showed me.
“See every day it is that I like to do these movements for my basketball. I am on the Russian Basketball team. And my teammates, they don’t do this exercise enough.” He said, again, in his best English.
He put his feet wider than hip-width distance, (pretty darn wide) toes turned slightly out and arms over head. Then he reached down one arm at a time to grab each toe an dropped his glutes to put himself in a baby squat position.
He paused, looked at me and said, “Then you reach up while in this squat, then stand. You try now, show me.”
Mind you, it is now 7:30 p.m. on a cold March evening in Chicago. The gym is packed so full, people are basically sweating on top of each other. I am mortified. How did this transpire?
And next thing you know, I am doing these exercises as he watches, albeit not the most proficiently.
He was right, metaphorically, I must learn to land before I should jump.
I was nervous because I thought I might be stuck training with this awkward Bulgarian-Russian basketball player the rest of the night. And with past memories of my evil, Bulgarian gymnastic coach Georgi coming to mind, my heart was racing!
However, just as quickly as the tall version of Mr. Miyagi swooped in, we parted ways and I did a few more mobility exercises.
Mr. Bulgarian basketball player is right— you have to be able to move.
For instance, if you cannot touch your toes without a lot of pain you probably shouldn’t jump into an intense workout and throw yourself to the ground doing burpees.
However, if you take a few moments to breathe and stretch before you push it, your body will go through the movements of a burpee, a lunge, a squat, or jog in the healthiest way possible and in the end you may avoid a lot of potential injuries.
(After this blog, I videoed a flow of my favorite mobility exercises— and yes, I know I do them way too fast.)
First and foremost! MAKE SURE YOU FOAM ROLL.
Best advice on “how-to” roll? Roll where you feel muscular tension and where it “hurts-so-good.” TAKE YOUR TIME.
One of my all-time favorites is the dragon push-up/spiderman push-up:
Why: because I practice them almost every day and still have a hard time with them. As a spin instructor they open up my hips and hamstrings and it is a hurts-so-good kind of pain.
How: watch the video, and see photos below. (ignore weird pixelation edits—it was sunny)
Make sure to straighten out the top arm.
Why: it wasn’t until recently at Achieve Fitness in Sommerville, (nearby Boston) that I really began to understand the importance of these for me personally. I tend to use my hamstrings instead of my glutes. In turn, I over stretch and work the hammys and the low back. By doing these variations of a SL or double leg glute bridges, I bring awareness to my glutes and get them to fire before I pick up anything heavy. You can see the SL glute bridges in my video.
Why: I have weak ankles with little to no mobility, partly because my calves are always tight. This is bad because it inhibits my ability to squat with good form and it encourages bad striking when I run. I also put my ankles through hell when I run up inclines in Shred415 or Barry’s Bootcamp classes (will explain more later, they involve treadmill intervals), but these ankle exercises help make them stronger, furthermore preventing worse injuries.
How: Try putting your foot one inch from a wall and then from a standing or kneeling position, try and get your knee to touch the wall. If you are successful, move your foot an inch further back.
God Bless you, Mr. Bulgarian Russian Basketball player. Thank you for reminding me to be more mindful of my work and my body.
If you can’t touch your toes, you probably shouldn’t be powerlifting!