Tobina Wilson, explains why mobility is important for triathletes and how you can improve your levels.
Mobility refers to the freedom of movement your body is capable of through a range of motion. Mobility requires your joints and soft tissue to be able to move in various required directions. Muscle strength can only be utilised properly if the joints around them have the ability to move without restriction.
Similarly, a mobile joint needs to be supported by good muscles to allow it to move well. Flexibility is often thought to be a bonus, but someone who is very flexible without the right muscle system to support it may run into injuries. Having good mobility also ensures that your movements are fluid and efficient, therefore improving your energy efficiency and speed in sport.
Sufficient mobility is therefore a precursor to optimising your performance. Good mobility is key in preventing injuries, too. For example, the upper back is a key area for all three disciplines. We have all seen cyclists whose upper backs are very flexed over the bars.
If there is insufficient mobility in the upper back to cope with these aerodynamic bike positions, the neck is forced into a position of looking forwards, which may cause irritation. This is a common cause of neck pain in the triathlete.
Cyclists who have poor mobility in the upper back area may also find that this immobility can restrict arm movements, lung capacity, optimal muscle activation in the legs and body alignment when you transition into the run.
Another example of the importance of upper back mobility is the impact on shoulder mobility and strength in your freestyle stroke. Limited mobility in the upper back can restrict a good stroke action, reducing efficiency and putting your shoulder at risk of soft tissue injury.
Mobility of the hip flexors is particularly important for triathletes where the hip works in a very different range for each of the disciplines.
Improving your mobility allows your hips to easily move back into a running position after the cycle and prevent common running injuries often caused by poor activation of the glutes. Some people find there is a real benefit from doing pilates or yoga as it allows them to work on their mobility, but also to strengthen which allows us to use this mobility. Pilates and yoga classes should be taken by experienced instructors who can tailor classes to work on
areas that will challenge each individual in a safe and effective way.
By doing a different form of exercise you are asking your body to keep moving in different planes and ways which helps to keep a healthier, happier body rather than one that has adapted to training in limited disciplines.