Foam Rolling - arguably one of the hottest topics in health and fitness today, but what does it really do?!
When we foam roll or do soft tissue mobilization, what exactly are we doing? We’re targeting the fascia, the connective tissue of the body, the muscles, and the skin, but we’re also affecting blood flow and stimulating the nervous system. What we’re not doing is releasing the fascia. When you’re “rolling out your IT band,” what you’re actually doing is influencing the tissues below by compressing them. You’re compressing the skin, which provides tactile stimulation to the nervous system, you’re mobilizing the tissues, and rehydrating the tissue. Hydration is extremely important for fascia because it allows this tissue to be stronger and more dynamic. —-
Fascia forms an anatomical network throughout the body – it’s a body-wide mechano-sensitive signaling system. Fascia protects nerves, which need a large blood supply. When you increase blood flow to an area it will keep the mechanoreceptors of the fascia, the sensory organs that respond to vibration, stretch, and pressure, healthy allowing for proper fibrogenesis to occur, which helps with injury repair. —-
Healthy tissues have muscle play, they glide and slide over each other. When muscles aren’t in their optimal state, they can adhere to each other. Foam rolling and soft tissue mobilization can help get those tissues unstuck. When you foam roll, try to relax, breathe and allow your body to adapt to the soft tissue changes. Don’t cruise up and down, just find a tender spot and stay there for 30 seconds or until it “melts” away. Also, harder isn’t always better, so choose a foam roller that suits your body. —-
Research is still limited, but thus far foam rolling seems to have short term effects in increasing joint range of motion, lessening decrements in muscle performance, and diminishing perceived muscle soreness after an intense workout.(Cheatham, et al.) The best time to foam roll is both before and after your workout, but if you only have time to do one or the other, do it before. It will help improve muscle play and allow the muscles to work in a more efficient manner during your workout.
Davis's Law - The body needs stress, however, too much or too little, and the body breaks down. Part 2
So we know from the previous post how the fascial system works, and that too little stress to the body isn’t good, however too much stress to the body is not good either. Injury and inflammation increase your white blood cell count and activate collagenase, an enzyme that breaks down collagen. In an acute injury this process is adaptive, because it gets rid of the old damage and makes room for newer, stronger collagen. With chronic bodily stress, when you’re doing “two-a-days,” or working out excessively, you’re essentially over-activating this natural process, and decreasing the stability, quality and structure of the collagen, and your body. —-
So, what can we do? Start by making an effort to vary your workouts and activities. If we only do the things we’re good at, we’re just stressing the same patterns in the body and setting ourselves up for possible injury. This is one of the reasons more children and adolescents are getting injured in athletics. They’re playing the same sport or activity year-round and not allowing their body to rest from repetitive stressors. Their bodies need to grow, develop and become more resilient by adding new stressors from other sports and activities. —-
By all means do what you love but change it up when you can. Keep your fascial system healthy – move more and with variability, eat fresh foods, drink water, and consider some foam rolling and soft tissue mobilization. More on foam rolling in the next post!
Davis's Law - The body needs stress, however, too much, or too little, and the body breaks down. Part 1
Our bodies are made of connective tissue – blood, bone, and fascia, which adapt to our environment. Connective tissue also adapts to stress, too much or too little stress and the tissues respond negatively. If you’re chronically sedentary, the bones aren’t stressed enough, they decalcify, and osteoporosis sets in. Blood reduces in volume which raises your heart rate, thickens your blood, and increases the work/stress on the heart. When movement doesn’t happen often enough, or with enough variation, the body develops adhesions causing thickening of the tissue. —-
Fascia, or fibrous connective tissue, connect everything in the body to give it structure and support. Connected to muscles and nerves, the fascia runs for long distances in the body, impacting other structures that are far from any given moving joint. Muscles don’t work independently, and you can’t think about muscles as just having an origin and an insertion. —-
Fascia optimizes the spread of force through the body on a functional level. When you create a line of stress in the body along a line of fascia it becomes depolarized and attracts fibroblasts to the area, which begin laying down collagen and creating stability and shape. Moderate and varied stress is adaptive - the longer a line of collagen is, the more pliable, resilient and strong it becomes. However, this process doesn’t happen when there is rigidity or over-repetition of the same stressors. To optimize the health and function of our fascia, we need to apply different stress loads to our bodies, and move at different speeds and at different angles.
The human body, or the body of any animal really, is a biological system, not a machine. In order to keep a machine, a car for example, in mint condition, you have to tune it up every once in a while, change the oil, start it up once a week, and if you don’t want it scratched, rusty, or dented, keep it in the garage. The human body is just the opposite. We’ve all heard the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Your body has infinite ways to keep itself working, moving and improving, but if you don’t use these systems, they can’t function the way they’re supposed to. -
Movement is the best way to keep the neuromusculoskeletal system in prime working fashion. When our body is stuck in a position for an extended amount of time it will start to lay down tissue and basically grow itself together. An indication of this is when you wake up in the morning and you’re feeling stiff, but once you get up and move your body loosens up and it reverses this process. -
This doesn’t mean just going to fitness classes, yoga classes, and being a gym rat. What it does mean is that you need to go out and move your body in new and interesting ways every day. Go play with your kids, have a tug of war with your dog, get on the floor and roll around with your cat, go for a swim, hike, take a gymnastics class or a dance class. The list goes on, but don’t just settle for the gym. You have the entire world out there as your gym, the variability of the open environment that is the outside. The body, and the fascial system that encompasses our body, is more honed into variability, not repetition. Your body is meant to move and work, don’t take it for granted!