If you are struggling with relieving a stiff area of the body, the principle of Distribution may be the missing tool in your toolbox. This principle suggests that joint mobility is most efficiently developed and maintained when it is spread throughout your daily lifestyle.
For example, if you are struggling with ankle pain or stiffness and your coach or therapist prescribes ankle circles, it would likely be more effective to do 10 reps of ankle circles 6 times spread through your day than 6 sets of 10 reps of ankle circles all at once. I have clients who incorporate this idea while reading and sitting: they will do ankle circles whenever they get the chance. This approach enhances the remodeling process by providing a more consistent and spread out signal (i.e Distribution). From my experience and through conversing with various colleagues, we have found that the human body is highly adaptable and is in support of your healing when you are gentle and consistent with your targeted movement practice.
One of my current favorite techniques is to do a set of your target exercise every hour during the day. For example, if you commonly find your neck and shoulders stiff, 10 reps of gentle shoulder circles and neck circles with smooth breathing once every hour during the day could be very helpful at relieving that tension and preventing that holding pattern in the future.
The Distribution principle can be applied to any stiff area and with virtually any mobility exercise. However, it’s always important to keep in mind that a mobility restoration process is always based on context and you may need to seek professional advice if you have a serious injury. I do believe, though, that if it is simply a matter of a stiff area that needs more movement, gentle circular movements that target the problem area will be of great value.
To conclude, try moving more throughout your day and if you have a particularly stiff area try moving gently through that joint’s range-of-motion throughout your day.