Flexibility vs Mobility

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I hate the word flexible! Almost everyday, I have a student tell me she’s not flexible. Here’s the problem, flexible is subjective. I am more flexible than many people but not at all flexible for a dancer.

Somewhere along the way, it became a reason to not try. If we let flexibility, or lack there of it, become a reason not to do something – we lose mobility. For example, if we don’t reach for our toes because we can’t touch them. We lose mobility in our hips that allow us to pick things up off the floor.

If we don’t work to extend our legs off the floor, we will shuffle our feet walking as we lose mobility in the hip flexors. The same is true for reaching up, to the side, etc. We need to work our joints, tendons and muscles in all directions to keep them fluid and functional.

I realized while teaching that any exercise perceived to require flexibility caused many to shut down and stop trying. Once I changed the focus to mobility and sometimes fluidity of movement, the effort changed.

I believe that one can gain mobility just as one can gain strength. There are many thoughts on stretching before or after exercising. I enjoy stretching so I often do it after a workout, but it doesn’t have to be a separate entity.

Many exercises require mobility. Of course yoga and pilates, but so do dead lifts, burpees, jump squats, shoulder press, chest fly, and lunges to name a few. Sometimes we just need to change our focus a little and the benefits of our fitness program increases greatly!

Do you consider yourself flexible? Has it stopped you in the past? What’s your favorite exercise that increases mobility and strength?