Kind of cliche in a way but upon the most recent ‘lockdown’ in the UK, I decided to try something for the supposed 4 weeks this is forced on us.
Obviously I’ve still been going outdoors and training and living my life as close to normal as possible, just without being able to sustain a regular client base, yet again!
So it’s not as if I’ve been inactive by any means. But, mornings have never been my forte especially in the colder/darker months (Read This: S.A.D. -Finding Light Among The Dark), and I decided it was worth trying to do something about it in the form of getting moving long before any thoughts of official training.
Enter FitnessFAQ’s 5 minute morning mobility routine (shown below)!
I did this routine every day for 30 days straight. As a slight disclaimer I shamefully sometimes did the routine later in the day – as a warm up for training – but it was ALWAYS done, rain or shine, for 30 days straight.
Why the routine above & not one of the other 45,000 online?!
1. I have always admired and respected Daniel Vadnal of FitnesFAQs as an athlete, coach and human in general. In my growing anecdotal experience, very little of what he endorses has let me down and all makes practical and theoretical sense.
2. The routine is only 5 minutes and is simple to learn and remember, AND requires ZERO equipment. Not that I’m limited by equipment scarcity, I still see immense value in simplicity. And let’s be honest, the simpler something is, the easier it is to the damn thing!
3. The routine has all major patterns I could do with improving. In addition, it’s an active mobility routine; you control your joints instead of gravity controlling them. In simple terms this means the gains are more likely to stick as opposed to floppy passive stretching.
The real selling point though?
The overhead squatting & side bending!
There are folks in care homes with better mobility in the overhead squat and side bend than me, no kidding! For years I wasn’t able to bodyweight overhead squat with my arms any more than just above parallel to the floor. With a bar or broom stick I could but you can cheat more with those by rotating at the shoulders to compensate for poor overhead movement.
As for side bending, I remember when I got into handstand flagging (an intermediate handstand drill designed to acclimatise weight shifting from one arm to the other, but using a strong side bend/side flexion), and feeling like I was bending laterally like a circus performer, only to watch it on film and see I was barely shifting at all!
I’m definitely not gifted in the spinal mobility department but I’m still just as guilty of not working on this weakness as well, so no excuses made.
Simply put, I wondered how much this routine may nudge me into being considered even able to move in those locked up patterns……..
In the images below you can see the contrast between the mid point (2 weeks in) and the end point (last week of the 4) in terms of shoulder flexion. I can get my arms (actively) up a lot higher than I used to. Sadly I don’t have any photos of me at rock bottom, so to speak.
Generally, as you might expect, everything began feeling easier and free-er as the month went on. I put my own spin on it a little with the 90/90 hip rotations, by adding in an active foot lift while in internal rotation of the hip. I did this because I knew I wasn’t great at lifting the foot at all here to begin with.
My forward fold/hamstring flexibility is more accessible now regardless of circumstance as well. We’ve all been there: leg day and mobility work the day before, to not be able to touch your toes the next morning. This routine kept me in my normal ball park even when I was beaten up or felt stiffer than normal.
I experienced a similar phenomenon with the squat/ankles, which I think are actually connected. Tightness in the calf can hinder hamstring flexibility expression and the regular deep squatting kept the ankles looser than normal.
Side note: It’s incredible how tight the ankles and calves can get, even when trained through full range! Despite pistol squatting 20kg+ for reps each leg without shoes, the times I’ve had to mobilise my calves/ankles before squatting nowadays is shocking!
Shoulder mobility hasn’t improved much but then I wasn’t expecting it to. The daily routine isn’t designed to. Plus we need to account for the sheer amount of upper body training I do in the form of pulling, dipping, muscle up-ing etc etc – all of those pull you in the opposite direction; the direction of shoulder tightness. So we need to be fairly forgiving here.
All in all, another great experience/experiment. To be honest I will carry on with this routine as a warm up and I will try to do it first thing for the next 30 days? What do you reckon? Another idea is to replace it with a slightly different 5 minute mobility routine. Tom Merrick has a couple of good ones to choose from…….
Some other benefits of these routines are the mental strength acquired from seeing vows through to fruition. I would be on the Forbes list if I were paid each time I’d heard somebody was going to do something physical, without fail, for a given amount of time.
By actually doing it you show yourself mostly (and the world) that you can do things, even if you haven;t in the past and even if you didn’t want to on some of the days. There were days I didn’t want to do it. The prospect seemed ‘boring’.
When all’s said and done this type of mini-challenge builds discipline that carries to other walks of life, which isn’t to be underestimated.
Another possible route going forward is longer/more complex daily mobility routines or even making this one more complex. Fortunately as a coach, scaling movements is how I make my living so the sensible options are plenty!
Have you done any 30 day (or more) challenges? Physical, habitual, intellectual or else? I’d love to hear your experiences so please drop me a comment below! I’d also love to hear some suggestions of things you;d like me to try for another 30 days.
Thanks for reading. I hope this inspires you to conduct more of your own experiments!
P.S. For those who like a video, check out the YouTube I made on the 30 day experiment below 😀
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.