Let’s talk (some more) about . . . mobility . . . and what you can do to build a mobility practice for yourself.
Last month, I introduced my newest “fitness hot topic” . . . mobility. This month, I’ll dive a little deeper into that topic by talking about CARs (but not the kind you drive) and suggesting a possible action plan for you. Let’s get to it!
Mobility (which is different from flexibility, by the way) . . . is how far your joints can move on their own, in an active way. (Flexibility, by contrast, is passive. Still important. But different from mobility.) Mobility is all about our range of motion, and our range of motion is what gives us control, smoothness, and resilience in our joints.
Because of my rheumatoid arthritis, I am very interested in and inclined to pay attention to All Things Joint Related. But mobility is good for ALL of us, and especially as we age! One of my personal, primary fitness goals is to manage, maintain, and even to expand my range of motion – even on joints that have been ravaged by my RA.
For years, I was all about “protecting” my joints. But sometimes, “protecting” can actually go too far. It’s easy (and common) to translate “protecting” your joints as . . . not USING your joints. And THAT . . . that can really be a problem when it comes to maintaining range of motion. (And you know what they say . . . use-it-or-lose-it!) Be assured . . . I always, always protect my joints. All the time and with every movement. But I’ve also figured out that by actively USING my joints, I feel better – and my joints perform better. And they will continue to do so, over time.
Last year, as I started to really ramp up my mobility practice, I learned about something called . . . CARs, short for Controlled Articular Rotations. CARs . . . are basically joint circles. BUT they’re mindful, careful joint circles done in a controlled, systematic way — and with some technical tweaks. They’re very active, very intentional joint movements. You actually combine your muscles and your brain to make the biggest possible joint circles you can . . . while holding the rest of your body still. With CARs, a little bit of movement repeated every day can make a huge difference in your mobility.
Over the course of two months last winter, I learned to do CARs for each of my joints (one at a time). Now, I spend 10-15 minutes every morning running through my CARs routine (it’s kind of like a moving meditation for me at this point), and I gotta tell you . . . they have made an amazing difference in how my joints feel, in how my body moves, and in the level of pain and inflammation I experience. CARs don’t replace my regular fitness routine – but they DO enhance it.
CARs trainer Petra Fisher (you’ll hear a little more about her in a minute) lists the following benefits of doing CARS:
- CARs reduce feelings of pain, aches, and stiffness.
- CARs help you connect your body with your brain (how you move in space).
- CARs teach you about the state of your body (and help you identify your “sticky” parts; the parts that might need a little extra attention).
- CARs are a mindfulness practice.
- CARs help you move better after you’re done.
- CARs move your entire body.
- CARs help you maintain your current active range of motion.
- CARs are for EVERYbody; they’re easy to do, and they’re accessible (you can do them anywhere).
CARs are not difficult to learn or to do, although it is important to learn how to do them correctly. You can do CARs throughout the day, or all at one time. You can do them anywhere, anytime. (You can even do most of them while you watch TV if you want.) You don’t have to change into workout clothes or purchase any fancy equipment. And you don’t sweat. You just . . . have to do them.
So. Here’s my challenge for you this month . . .
Try some CARs for yourself. (Because if CARs can help someone who’s had RA for 30 years, imagine what they can do for you!)
I have a couple of quick and easy options for you to try some CARs – and then one option that is much more involved (and requires a bit of an investment of time and money).
First, Petra Fisher (who really is the Pied Piper of CARs) has a sample CARs video on her website that you can try. You will have to follow this link and then scroll way, way (WAY) down the page (keep scrolling. . . ) until you find the sample video. (I tried to embed the video here, but could not. Sorry.) The video is for wrist CARs, which is the hardest CARs for me, because I have significant damage to my wrist joints and a very limited range of motion. But . . . it is also one of the joints I can see the biggest difference in after doing CARs every day for nearly a year. Petra makes it look easy. It is not. It took me a lot of practice to be able to do this CARs — and although my range of motion is improving, my wrist CARs looks nothing like her wrist CARs. But . . . I want to keep knitting and writing and gardening and using my wrist. So I’m going to keep working at it!
Or, you can find lots of CARs demos on YouTube (just use the search feature). I found a series of CARs by a guy named Jason from a chiropractic/PT facility in Seattle who has short videos for each joint area. Here’s one for hip CARs.
Or, you can click into this article for 6 Daily Exercises to Improve Total-Body Mobility. Personally, I think videos provide better instruction, but this article does explain the steps involved for 6 different CARs with a few photos.
And, finally, if this type of practice seems to resonate with you, and you think you might want to invest some of your fitness time – and money – into an online class, I can highly recommend Petra Fisher’s Joints for Life class. (This is how I learned CARs, by the way.) Petra’s class is slow-paced, thorough (much more detailed than her sample CARs in the link above), and includes multiple adaptations to make the class suitable for everybody. The online class also includes a lot of information/general education about CARs, hints and tips for incorporating a CARs practice into daily life, sample daily routines, and support if you’ve got questions. I highly, highly recommend this course if you are interested in developing a lifelong mobility practice – and if you’re ready to make an investment of your time and money. (FYI . . . the course is $55.)
[Additional note. I don’t usually recommend anything here that requires an investment of money. I am not getting any kind of “benefit” for promoting Petra’s class. I just . . . took it myself, think it’s terrific, and I’m recommending that IF you are interested in learning CARs in a more serious way, this is a good way to do it.}
So. . .
Try some CARs!
See what happens!
2023 Monthly Fitness Challenges
#9 — Assess your mobility
#8 — Just begin again
#7 — Jump every day
#6 – Practice getting up from sitting on the floor
#5 – Get down on the floor every day
#4 – Walk 10 minutes every day
#3 – Discover how active you really are
#2 – Use-It or Lose-It
#1 – Create your own fitness plan for 2023
Looking for Monthly Fitness Challenges from 2021-2022? I’ve moved them! Now you can find them in the Field Notes section of the blog (just click on Field Notes in the top menu) and look for Monthly Fitness Challenges 2021-2022.