By Deborah Wilker
City & Shore Magazine
We run. We lift. We bike. But does it mean we’re in good shape? Maybe not, fitness pros say.
Often overlooked in the quest for an improved appearance and better health are fundamentals such as flexibility and, most important, mobility. It’s common to see people who appear to be fit – many only in their 40s or 50s – but who are unable to easily stand up from a seated position or bend low enough to reach items from the bottom shelf at the grocery store.
These are mobility issues, says top personal trainer Idalis Velazquez, whose fitness initiatives for Women’s Health magazine and Target’s C9 athletic wear have made her a social-media force. Buzzfeed named her daily exercises, which she posts @IVFitness on Instagram, among the most inspiring on the Internet.
Without proper mobility, Velazquez says, bodies develop all kinds of aches and pains, creating a vicious cycle that leads to even less mobility and, most commonly, surgeries such as hip replacement.
“A lot of people have back pain because they have tight hips,” Velazquez says. “It’s all connected.”
More than anything, it’s the mastery of mobility that will keep your body humming along deep into your 80s and 90s. You really can increase your chances of dashing up staircases and carrying your own bags through airports for decades to come – while your peers struggle to reach that bottom shelf – if you take certain steps now.
Velazquez says improved mobility involves three key factors:
Soft tissue therapy
Otherwise known as therapeutic massage, STT is the simple kneading of knots and other muscular kinks that hinder movement. Most of us can work out knots ourselves with foam rollers or by asking a friend or partner to hit the rough spots.
Movement and stretching
Velazquez offers her students range-of-motion drills that can be done anywhere, any time – and not even necessarily as part of a formal work-out.
“You can always break these up,” she says of such drills, which include “The Wall Slide,” “Lunge and Reach,” plank holds and squats.
“Do two in the morning and two more during your lunch break,” Velazquez says.
Nothing works in athletic training like repeating a movement again and again. It’s how the body learns, and how certain actions become second nature. Velazquez likes to shoot for at least 100 reps of many exercises with her clients, “but you can always modify until you become stronger. Start with just five.”
A former track-and-field athlete in her native Puerto Rico, Velazquez is not a believer in complex gym equipment or gym memberships. Just about everything she demonstrates online and with her clients can be done outdoors with a yoga mat, free weights and using steps, walls or handrails for challenges, balance and stability.
Holding a deep squat is among her favorite exercises and one that can produce numerous long-lasting benefits.
“Just five minutes a day in this position does wonders for your health,” she says.
If you can’t quite stay in a squat unassisted, do the best you can while holding onto a wall or chair at first, then let go little by little for longer and longer periods.
“Our bodies are amazing, and regardless of age they will respond,” Velazquez says.
She says we should think of exercise as something more than a route to good looks. The goal should also be longevity — the kind of longevity that permits all kinds of life activities.
“When you see people in their 90s walking fast, carrying their own groceries or chasing grandchildren and great-grandchildren, that’s the goal,” Velazquez says.