Maintain the health of your joints and tissues.
Speed up recovery between exercise sessions.
Learn more about the state of your body.
Feel better. Immediately.
These are just a few of the benefits you will gain from the act of simply moving your joints.
Now, when I say "move your joints", I'm not referring to stretches, activation drills, strength exercises or mobility drills. I'm talking about mobilizing a bodypart; moving without getting close to any kind of failure.
Opening and closing the arms, bending and straightening your knees, moving your neck in a circle, swinging your leg back and forth and so forth. Simple, non-fatiguing movements of one or more joints that are done with the purpose of making you feel and function better.
It's an offer that should be too good to refuse.
Not only does it give advantages to both your immediate and long term state, it also requires minimal effort, equipment and prior knowledge.
Strangely enough, and despite all this, it's not something a lot of people choose to do. The most probable reason for this is the influence of fitness, and how it permeates our idea of what movement is all about.
The Performance Mindset
Most movements performed in a fitness setting are based on the same idea:
"do X until you can hardly do X anymore".
It's a tried-and-true approach.
Challenging a quality in a movement, like mobility or strength, for the sake of improving it - well, it works. In fact, it it works so well that we now have a hard time associating beneficial movement as anything other than challenging.
The influence of this mindset is visible.
Something as innately healthy as putting our arms above our heads or behind our backs is now reserved for the purpose of active mobility/flexibility - in other words, these movements need to challenging to be worthy of execution.
The same can be said for other motions that aren't necessities in modern society. We primarily perform them on the basis that movement is for improvement and that improvement demands strain.
This causes us to operate at the ends of the spectrum of movement; when we move, we work - when we rest, we don't move.
Our joints' average exposure to movement is low and their maximum intensity of movement is high. Though it's an approach that will yield great results, we miss out on benefits we could get if we also decided to move our joints on a regular basis with a moderate intensity.
How to Mobilize
Pick a large movement of one or more joints.
Move with an intensity that would allow you to do 30-50 repetitions without feeling like you're getting fatigued.
Move with a range of motion (ROM) that doesn't make you feel like you're enduring any kind of discomfort.
Move with a ROM that makes the body parts feel more comfortable.
Do 10-30 repetitions.
At the end of the set, you should feel like you're able to do more. Remember that this is not about demonstrating maximum effort, it's about improving average exposure. Once you're done with a movement you should be left wanting more.
Also, you should feel better, both during and after the mobilization.
If you don't, do not blame the movement, simply make whatever you just did a bit easier.
The Biggest Benefit
One of the first things I do every morning is to move every joint in my body. Usually some type of circular motion, 10 repetitions per direction.
There are many reasons as to why I do this:
It creates momentum and makes me more productive throughout the rest of the day.
It feels great.
It allows me to check in on how my body feels.
Another important reason I do it is because it improves my relationship to my body.
Every experience we have with any "thing" adjust how we relate to it. If every time you opened up your fridge you were blasted with a gust of icy wind that would chill you down to your very bones, you'd probably be less inclined to open it without it being absolutely necessary. As a Norwegian who's had to store food outdoors, I can attest to this.
This applies to movement as well.
By moving in a way that feels satisfying, not because of gratification, but because of how the movement inherently feels, we get the opportunity to adjust our relationship to movement.
Pleasant experiences create pleasant expectations of what movement might feel like. This will make us move more, which in turn will make us better at moving.
Also, by moving in a way where our focus isn't to endure or ignore discomfort, we open up another line of communication - one that allows us to move in a way that is based, not just on our goals, but also the body's needs.
And, as the saying goes:
If you don't want your body to raise its voice, listen to it when it whispers.
Move your joints by following the guidelines above.
I recommend that you do it first thing in the morning and that you follow the rule of "never miss twice". This basically means that you're going to do your best to avoid missing out on two consecutive days of mobilization.
To give you an idea of what it might look like, take a look at one of the mobilization routines I recently did during my morning routine.
Take note of how you feel after mobilizing. See whether or not it affects how you relate to movement the rest of your day.