Brush Your Teeth, Brush Your Body
In the early 1900s, 93% of Americans didn’t brush their teeth.
Today, only babies and people with too much faith in oil pulling have yet to adopt it.
Nobody—at least nobody I know—loves brushing their teeth, but nobody complains about it either. We do it out of habit, because it’s not that time-consuming, and because we know it preserves our pearly whites for decades longer than they’re designed to last.
And now, we need to start doing the same for our bodies.
To keep our bodies from getting nasty and falling apart, we need to develop the habit of “brushing our body” with a daily mobility routine.
Why A Daily Mobility Routine?
If you have back, shoulder, or knee pain or stiffness or want to remain active as you age, you might want to consider “brushing your body” as often as you brush your teeth.
Because the decay to our bodies from doing a daily mobility routine is similar to what happens to our teeth when we don’t brush them. Our joints build up the equivalent of plaque, get stiff and brittle, and start to hurt, often excruciatingly. Then your body looks and feels like the equivalent of this guy’s teeth:
And it gets worse.
Keep ignoring your body’s mobility maintenance needs, and, eventually, you’ll become physically toothless—unable, even, to bend over to pick up that Dorito you dropped on the floor.
On the bright side, with mobility, unlike with a tooth, if you lose it, you can get it back.
How to Get Started
If you’ve ever tried teaching a kid to brush their teeth, or you still remember being taught yourself, you know that developing a habit isn’t easy. So to get started with a daily mobility routine, here are some tips:
Consider visiting a
If you knew someone who had gone their whole life without brushing your teeth, you’d probably recommend they go see a dentist, right?
The same goes for your body.
A physical trainer will help you spot and fix any major issues in your body and ensure you brush your body in an optimal way.
Just to be clear, not having the time or money to see a trainer doesn’t excuse you from starting today with your daily mobility routine. You wouldn’t tell the person who’s never brushed their teeth before to not bother starting until they’ve seen a dentist, would you?
Give yourself some momentum.
Challenge yourself to do a daily mobility routine for thirty days straight.
Thirty days isn’t enough to stick yourself with a habit, but it should be enough to polish off a teensy bit of nasty joint rust and start feeling some benefits. At least, you’ll be able to finally pick up that Dorito from the floor. And, hopefully, this will motivate you to keep up your mobility routine after month one is done.
To boost your odds of completing the thirty days, try the following:
- Make it easy. Commit to a simple daily mobility routine that you wouldn’t balk at doing for a year straight.
- Go into it positively pessimistic. Expect only small wins, not to be doing the splits by the end of the month.
- Set some rules. For example, give yourself one or two “free days.”
- Formally commit. Tell some friends, write a letter to your future self, or otherwise make yourself accountable.
For more on each of these steps, see How to Succeed at Whatever 30-Day Challenge You Choose.
Pick a time.
Most of us brush our teeth at roughly the same time every day. We should do the same with our daily mobility routine. This will set a cue that will make it harder for us to forget.
No excuses. You’ve managed to find time to brush your teeth your whole life, so you can manage to find time to brush your body.
Do it while you watch TV in the evening, before getting in the shower in the morning, or while you’re waiting for your dog to take a shit at the park.
You have plenty of times in the day where you can squeeze in a daily mobility routine. Pick one.
Pick a routine.
We’re so used to brushing our teeth that we can do it mindlessly. The same can be possible with daily mobility if you find one routine to follow and stick to it until it becomes second nature.
Settling on a go-to daily mobility routine also saves your brain the time and effort of figuring out what to do every day.
Keep reading for a few of my favorite daily mobility routines below.
Early on, you can expect to be as awkward and ineffective with your daily mobility routine as a kid is when they start brushing their teeth:
It takes mindful repetition to develop the proper movement patterns, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it.
Maybe you’ll even be able to brush your teeth and do your mobility routine at the same time!
Sorry, your sport doesn’t count.
Some people I’ve talked to about starting a daily mobility routine tell me stuff like, “Cool idea, Chris. I already do [insert sport or training here] every day, so I don’t need to. But yeah, lazy people totally should do that.”
No, no, no.
That’s like saying. “Chris, I only drink smoothies through a straw, so I only have to brush the back of my mouth.”
Unless your sport is yoga, it’s equally as important to have a daily mobility routine if you already do some sort of exercise as it is if you don’t. That’s because your physical activity of choice requires a limited range of motion. A daily mobility routine will help ensure the joints you don’t use as much stay in working order too.
Try this daily mobility routine.
Since I don’t even know exactly how to brush my teeth let alone brush my body, I asked an expert, Seattle-based performance coach Luka Hocevar, for an easy daily mobility routine that anyone can follow. He’s the one who introduced me to the concept of “brushing your body” on episode 275 of Shawn Stevenson’s podcast, The Model Health Show.
Luka sent me the below routine. It’s about 50 seconds long, so loop through it until five minutes are up.
Don’t worry if you struggle with some of these movements and don’t feel as graceful as Luka. You’ll likely be closer to the kid in the first video brushing her teeth than an expert.
With time you’ll get the hang of it. And your body will feel better than ever.
More Mobility Routines
If you don’t like this routine or start getting bored of it, I have good news. Unlike brushing your teeth, the number of ways you can brush your body is unlimited.
So, after getting tired of Luka’s suggested flow, I expanded my routine repertoire via videos from YouTube. These are my current favorites I have on rotation:
Take the lead.
Maybe, decades from now, people will think back to our immobile bodies today like we do to people’s nasty-breathed, cavity-filled mouths from the early 1900s. Maybe there will even be cute YouTube videos of kids learning mobility.
But don’t wait until everybody else is doing it and let your body suffer as a result. Be like one of the 7% of early tooth brushers. Changing culture and habits starts one person and one day at a time.