Mobility Works: An Example

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
– Edward Stanley
I have two issues with my man Ed Stanley’s quote above.  Number one, I think he should be more inclusive and say “all forms of bodily exercise”.  And number two – where was he with this quote a few months ago?
Flashback to April 2019 – not too long ago on the calendar but seems like a lifetime ago in terms of my experience gained from then to now.  I was training hard for the GORUCK 50-mile Star Course ruck race — going for long rucks on the weekend whenever Denee and I could get away from the boys, and rucking back and forth to the gym in the middle of the day.  I hadn’t stopped training CrossFit, but I had noticeably stopped smashing and stretching my tired and tight legs — after all if I was going to add so much extra time on the road then something had to give, right?
Then with about a month to go before the mid-May event, my left knee completely locked up, twice over the span of one week.  Ironically, the first time was when I finally decided to stretch.  The second time brought me into the office of the closest orthopedist, who happened to be an expert in patellofemoral issues – aka how the knee and femur interact.  In my case, the interaction appeared to be a disaster – my knee had started tracking way outside and was sitting on a ridge of bone, rather than down in the valley-like capsule at the end of the femur.  Patellar maltracking, a relatively common eventual issue with distance runners, was the diagnosis, and the next step would be invasive surgery to remove and reset my knee cap.  The surgeon prescribed me a gnarly orthotic brace to push my knee back over, and several sessions of physical therapy to hold the locking symptoms at bay for a bit, but he was pessimistic that things would get better.  He just didn’t want it to get any worse!
I wore the brace whenever I moved, and went to the first physical therapy session.  After doing some initial observation and talking about my symptoms, the PT doc went to work on my outside quad and IT band, digging his fingers in to loosen the stiff muscles and stretching the outside of my leg.  As he explained it (and the orthopedist did as well), the outside muscles and tendons had become very tight from overuse and nothing being done to relieve them.  And while he stopped short of saying I had bitch-ass quads (my own diagnosis), he said the inner quads were not as strong and were allowing my knee to drift away toward the tighter muscles.  I paid close attention to what he was doing, and the next day in the gym copied the routine with a lacrosse ball and some targeted stretches.
I hadn’t made time for the requisite amount of mobility work that my body needed with all the additional stress I was putting on it, and now I was paying the price, but I sensed that it was working.  A couple weeks later, I successfully completed the 50-mile ruck (after not rucking very much leading up to it, which led to a different price to be paid with fully trashed feet… oh well).  No knee pain, just pain everywhere else, and so I leaned my training plan once again heavily toward mobility work after getting my body warmed up first.  One month later, I am back to full training, and still have no problems with my knee.  Visually, I can tell that my knee is tracking more inline, and I actually haven’t worn my brace since before the long ruck.
I know now academically through the mobility leadership of our own Coach Josh and others that preach the gospel, but I also know from experience – mobility works!  If you don’t take the time to do it now, you will be forced to take the time soon when your body sends that firm signal, “THAT’S ENOUGH!”  Take the time to get loosened up before your workout, and work through the recovery techniques we prescribe in class for each workout.  That stuff is the bare minimum.  Know your body, where you need extra help, and learn about what you need to do to feel your best.  I am a fair resource, Josh is better, and you can schedule time with either of us by purchasing a Mobility Session online.  We will give you the toolkit you need to succeed.  There are also a ton of online resources, most notably Dr. Kelly Starrett’s site, and his book Becoming a Supple Leopard is the bible of mobility specifically for CrossFit.  We have it at the gym – borrow it, study it, make copies, make a plan.
See you on a lacrosse ball somewhere soon!

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