The best way to improve long term performance is to stay healthy, injury free & in the game. Sounds obvious enough, but there is some simple things that most of us aren't doing that can help ensure this can happen. It is one of the simplest and most beneficial forms of training, yet it is something that is neglected and often avoided by just about all of us. It seems as though just because you are not working up a sweat it cannot be all that beneficial. But how wrong you are.
Mobility and flexibility are the forgotten training methods, often the first thing to get cut from your session the minute you start running short of time, when in reality it should be the last thing you cut from your training day. No matter how you fit it in, as a warm up, cool down or a session on its own. You should aim to include some form of mobility or flexibility into your training as often as possible.
Lets be honest if we had the money and the time we would all love to treat ourselves to a hour of massage everyday. Try and think of your mobility session as your self massage or self myofascial release if you want to get fancy, it is a little reward to yourself for all of your hard work in training. Easing tight and sore muscles, alleviating pressure on joints and leaving you feeling fresh and ready to take on another session!
Lets face it, in the context of things spending the time to work on preventing injury is a much better strategy than missing whole sessions or weeks of training due to injury. Being able to train consistently and stick to your program long term is the best way to continue achieving great results. If you continually having to take a week of here & two weeks off there to recover from little niggles your progress is continually getting stunted. Spend just 5-10 minutes a day can go a long way to keeping you training & performing injury free.
But how can it prevent injury? Your muscles have an optimum length and tension they like to maintain. Through frequent training, your muscle tension increases and you can develop adhesions (you may feel these as ‘knots’ in your muscles). As a result of these processes your muscles in effect shorten in length. When you try to go through your normal range of motion, in training or competition you don’t have the same elasticity in your muscles which can result in strains and tears.
This is particularly evident in sports, as a lot of the time due to competitive demands you may not be able to control the range of motion you will have to take your muscles through. So keeping them healthy and ready to go through the largest range of motion possible by adding mobility sessions to your training, you will ensure you can improve your sports performance and stay at the top of your game.
Ideally, you would incorporate a few full sessions of mobility work into your weekly routine. But even 5 - 10 minutes as a warm up or cool down is going to be advantageous. Some of the best methods you can try include foam rolling, massage / trigger point balls, band assisted stretching, yoga or even body weight exercises utilising a full range of motion.