I often write of the benefits of training regarding exercise and nutrition. One of the most important components of a fitness program that is as important, but often gets less attention, is recovery. As you increase your exercise volume, you also need to make sure you are allowing your body to fully recover.
Whether you are strength training, doing cardio, or Pilates, you are putting stress on your body every time you workout. Our lifestyle of poor posture, and too much sitting also can create postural dysfunctions. Make time for recovery or make time for injury! Without sound recovery practices it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself injured or suffering from over-training.
Fascia is the most overlooked system in the human body when it comes to the recovery phase of training or injury prevention. The fascia is a dense, soft connective tissue located just below the skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the myofascia system. It is similar to the material that would be left if all the juice of an orange were removed.
For various reasons including inactivity, not enough stretching, injuries, or cumulative traumas of life, the fascia and underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it results in restricted muscle movement. Fascia shrinks when it is inflamed, and is slow to heal because of poor blood supply. It is also a focus of pain because of its rich nerve supply.The most common injuries seen in experienced exercisers are muscle knots or “trigger points”.
Massage and foam rolling are the most effective ways to facilitate healing, optimize performance, and help alleviate many problems associated with chronic pain. Stretching is very beneficial for recovery and cannot be neglected. But in the case of muscle knots, stretching alone is not enough. When stretching a muscle with knots, you are only stretching the healthy muscle tissue. A well-trained massage therapist can effectively apply pressure to break up and relieve muscle knots.
With the coming addition of the Oasis Spa, with massage therapist Mark Embler, opening in our fitness complex here at PT Gym, I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to all the benefits of massage. Massage is more than just a luxury taken to relax and reduce stress. It can and should be an essential component of a well rounded fitness regime.
Recent research shows that deep massage after an intense workout actually causes muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria. Mitochondria, the powerhouses of our cells, are responsible for converting nutrients into useful energy. Research showed that deep-tissue massage increased the size and number of new mitochondria more than exercising without massage. Increasing mitochondria can improve endurance performance by increasing the rate that muscles can utilize oxygen.
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique that is used by athletes and physical therapists. Foam rollers are foam logs that are six inches in diameter. They are simple but effective tools that relieve soft tissue pain and muscle pain. Athletes often use them to break up scar tissue and painful adhesions that develop after years of workouts.
Foam rolling is your cheap massage alternative. It provides similar benefits without the personal touch and attention of a licensed massage therapist. Foam rolling before a workout will help get the blood flowing, increases range of motion, and prepare your muscles for work. Don’t forget to foam roll after a workout to massage your muscles. Foam roll and stretch before and after your workouts for optimal success. By using your own body weight and a foam roller you can perform a self-massage or myofascial release, break up trigger points, and soothe tight fascia while increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues.
Along with massage, foam rolling and stretching, it is important to do all you can for adequate recovery. This includes sufficient sleep, proper hydration, and re-fueling after a workout. You need to be doing all of these things on a regular basis to keep your body functioning at its best. Just as with exercise, if you commit to do all of these tips daily, you will start to reap the benefits and avoid injury.
Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as a Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.