Sarah Homer | June 7, 2019
One of the most important elements of performance and exercise is recovery, and it’s also one of the hardest things to do! Livekick fitness trainer and certified CrossFit Level 2 trainer Sarah Homer discusses the importance of resting your body in order to feel better, move better, and experience better results.
It's quite easy to forget that exercise and "dieting" are not the only pieces to the health puzzle. In order to reach our full potential, it's crucial that we stay on top of both our recovery and our nutrition. We must be able to move well in order to perform well, and more importantly - to stay injury-free!
To get better at a sport or to enhance your personal fitness, you must expose your body to stress so that your body can grow and adapt. "Stress" is used here in a positive way; it refers to training and exercise programs like strength training, bodyweight calisthenics, sprinting, endurance runs, etc. But upon completion of one of these instances of "stress," the human body needs to adapt to everything that it just underwent, and this is where recovery comes in.
Most movement issues we see are due to what most people describe as muscle “stiffness” or “tightness.” In reality, your muscles are numerous sliding surfaces built upon more sliding surfaces. Problems arise when these surfaces stop sliding as well as they could or once did. Dr. Gil Hedley refers to this as “the fuzz.” The technical term is fascial fibrosis, and the accumulation of this "fuzz" happens as a result of injury, lack of movement, postural patterns, or simply time. When it does accumulate, it becomes like an adhesive, causing your sliding surfaces to stick together as if they were glued down. This can result in a lack of mobility and poor force production, and will cause your efficiency and performance to suffer. Even worse than that, if you don't take the time and effort to break up the fascial fibrosis, you're officially on the fast track to an injury. Here are some ways to tame the "fuzz."
Self Myofascial Release is just a fancy term for self-massage. It can include using tools such as a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, a tennis ball, a "stick," and more. The great thing about SMR is that you can do it for free! Investing in these tools to keep at home or in your gym bag is quite inexpensive, and the results have large payoff. No need to block off a significant amount of time for this, either: a general rule of thumb is two minutes per area and a total of ten to fifteen minutes per day.
Here's a great video I posted on my Instagram highlighting how to create a deeper, more concentrated pressure on the muscle whle foam rolling.
My personal favorites include: sports massage or active release therapy, cupping, Graston Therapy, and dry needling. It is important to understand that while SMR should be part of your daily routine, it cannot take the place of seeing a licensed professional. They will be able to use different tools and get deeper into the soft tissue to maximize improved range of motion. Not to mention, breaking up soft tissue is quite uncomfortable, meaning that it's much easier to have someone else do it for you! Chances are, you wouldn't "hurt yourself" enough.
The main contributor to "fuzz" is inflammation. When you exercise, and especially when you lift weights, you create small tears in your muscle fibers (which then are repaired by macronutrients like protein as well as adequate sleep) and therefore also create inflammation. Cryotherapy and/or ice baths can help keep that inflammation at bay. I personally prefer cryotherapy. Sitting in a freezing bathtub full of ice water for 10 minutes is miserable, whereas cryotherapy is a dry cold and only lasts for three minutes. Plus, your body can withstand much colder temperatures in a cryotherapy unit than an ice bath, so it may ultimately be more effective.
A buildup of soft tissue looks a heck of a lot like cobwebs, if you can imagine that! In order to melt these cobwebs away, stretching and moving our bodies is key. Both static stretching and dynamic stretching are important - I recommend taking ten to fifteen minutes minimum each day to work on range of motion via stretching.
The moral of the story is: if you are a human being, it's imperative that you are proactive with your tissue health. Even if you're new to exercise and are only fitting in one session per week at the moment, I'd guess that you spend some time walking around, or sitting in the same position for a few hours at a time - it's crucial to balance out that movement (as well as lack of movement) through muscle recovery tactics. This will keep you injury-free, feeling good, and will enhance your performance in the gym. Sounds like a win-win to me!
If you want to learn more live, sign up to train with me on Livekick! Your first two weeks are free when you select our Rise plan.