Fascia – The relatively unknown super-substance that holds us together. But why is it important?
Fascia is the missing part of the puzzle that may just change the way you train, recover, and live your life.
What is fascia?
Fascia is a tough connective tissue substance that forms an interconnected web and weaves its way throughout your entire body. In wrapping your body it separates everything into compartments allowing surfaces to slide over each other. It extends from your head to your toes and surrounds, and is incorporated into, every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, and organ. In this way everything in your body is connected. It can absorb force, contract independently by responding to stressors, and is a link between all of the bodies systems.
Is your fascia healthy?
Healthy fascia is strong yet smooth, slippery, and allows stretch in any direction whilst being able to return to its normal state. Fascia is not always healthy though. As we age it dehydrates; poor posture, injuries, and lack of movement cause excessive adhesions between the fascia fibres, restricting movement. Over-training, repetitive movements in one direction, or excessive stress cause fibres to thicken and not slide and glide or absorb stress like they should.
What can we do about it?
1. Move lots and in different ways. In other words you are all on the right track, do CrossFit, constantly varied functional movements, and actively incorporate these in sports and everyday life. – This reduces adhesions and allows the fascial system to stay smooth.
2. Rest. Exercise forces the water out of the tissues. Rest allows your body to relax from the constant stress of everyday life, recover, and allows the tissues to rehydrate. – Hydration allows the tissues to slide and glide over each other.
3. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. With this part sorted you allow #1 and #2 to rehydrate your fascia.
4. ‘Stretch, mobilise, increase your flexibility’. Chronically tight muscles pull on the fascia. This can cause restrictions in other areas of the body (it is all connected…), changing your movement patterns and making movement harder than it needs to be. It also reduces the blood supply to tight areas, starving your muscles of the oxygen and nutrients they need to work hard and recover.
5. Relax. Find time in your day to unwind. This is one of the most difficult things to do. If you are anything like me, then the only way this will happen is if you schedule it into your diary. Take 20mins to stretch, read a book, or have a bath. A bath is a great way to loosen up tight fascia.
6. Foam roller or lacrosse/tennis ball. Using tools to create a gentle, slow movement presses fluid from the fascia which then rehydrates with fresh fluid and nutrients.
7. Have a myofascial release massage. Myofascial release can help improve circulation and fascial stiffness.
So next time you are at the box or at home and you are feeling a little tight, stiff, or sore, take a moment to think about what’s happening in your body. Stiffness, weakness, or immobility may not be coming from just your muscles.
If you’re a video sort of person, check out the link below, warning not for the faint hearted.