As CrossFit athletes, we always love to talk about “work capacity” or power output as it’s applied to fitness. Blasting music, throwing down and ripping off our shirts is what makes our sport so much fun (and the brunt of many jokes. This is one of my favorite. I literally can’t stop laughing when I watch it). Glassman revolutionized the fitness industry by simply defining what “fitness” truly is: cardio endurance, flexibility, stamina, strength, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy. Much like politics and religion, we could argue all day long about which of the above is the most important to develop the athlete in first (strength vs. stamina). What we can’t argue about, all things considered, is the single domain that is the most important to athlete longevity. Flexibility, or mobility as guru Kelly Starrett would state, is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of the aging athlete and one that is consistently overlooked.
When I think about all of my athletes in our gym, I immediately think about their capabilities and limitations. Who has injured shoulders? Who has terrible shoulder mobility that will soon HAVE a grenaded shoulder if something isn’t corrected? Who can’t squat without rounding their back? I can picture many athletes in a compromised position, whether their heals come off the ground in a wall ball or their shoulders rotate forward on a clean. No amount of yelling, coaching, etc is going to get them to improve in these situations. Kelly once stated, “If you’re yelling at your athlete to open his hips at the top of a box jump and he still isn’t doing it, yelling louder isn’t going to correct the problem.”
I would say nearly 100% of all athletes that enter our doors have some sort of mobility issue. It is very rare to find an athlete who can high kick over his head without wincing in pain (or let alone just kick over his head), do a full split and push overhead without compromising his lumbar curve. Coach Erica Rideau, a yogi (and our yoga instructor in training) is one of the few. Here’s a scary prediction for you. Of all those athletes that enter the gym without an injury, nearly all of them will develop an injury within 2-3 years. That is if they continue on the same track without some sort of mobility routine. I would venture to say this for the entire CrossFit world too. And those are just the athletes that have come in without a pre-injurious condition. What kind of miniscule tweaks in form do you perform in your lifts to get the workout done? It’s no different than running. Run long enough favoring your left foot and sooner or later you’ll begin having major hip flexor/IT band issues in the opposite hip. Trust me, I speak from experience. Running is a great high volume exercise that proves the theory that slight shifts in efficiency can and will lead to major physical break downs.
Do you think it’s coincidence Graham Holmberg, winner of the 2010 CrossFit Games, practices yoga and just happens to have a wife who also teaches yoga in their gym? It’s simple science, kids. Better form = better efficiency = better athlete. Over the long haul, Graham will not only out compete but also out last his competition. Fewer injuries, less down time, more consistency in training all add up to more hours training. And more hours training is what separates the amateurs from the pro’s. Talent, as many of us call it, can be defined in this way: consistency. But that is a post for another day!
What does your program look like? Do you practice 1 hour of some sort of restorative stretching or yoga at least once per week? If being “injury free” is one of your goals, you need to seriously consider what that path looks like and what it will take to achieve it. It’s no different than the mind set an athlete may have when it comes time to train for her first marathon.
So, if consistency means a better athlete, start by getting into a mobility routine.
Never Let It Rest,