It is ideal to have a body which functions well. By this I mean strong, flexible, mobile and balanced. We need a functional body that can adapt to the different movements we do every day such as sitting down and standing up, stepping on and off a bus, bending over, pushing, pulling, sports, walking, running around with the kids, twisting. Pilates is a fantastic way to work on all of these movements and more.
For a long time now, there was research related to building muscle strength using concentric and eccentric movement with isometric and isotonic exercises as the foundation and using different types of repetition and intervals in a way to improve performance and avoid injury.
More recently research led to the same conclusion that in order to improve the body’s performance and avoid injury, the best exercises are those which involve moving the WHOLE body rather than just strengthening an isolated muscle.
Fascia is what holds us together and it is everywhere throughout our bodies. We are constantly training our fascia, no matter what we do. Could we do it better if we were doing it consciously? The answer is YES. Sport trains your fascia, sitting here reading this article trains your fascia in terms of sitting. Fascia has amazing properties to it. In particular it has a visco elastic property and is three dimensional, thin and web-like. It is made mostly of collagen and is a framework that connects muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and blood, supporting and protecting major muscle groups and organs. Think of it like a body stocking that lies underneath your skin skin and wraps around the muscles and organs. Ideally our fascia should be smooth and flexible but due to stressors that can range from running, carrying a heavy work bag on our shoulder, sitting at a computer, or any other activity that we perform regularly, fascia can become thick and tight.
Adhesions can also develop because of little tears that sometimes don’t heal properly. If the connective tissue (fascia) surrounding your muscle becomes restricted, you’ll notice your muscles will also become restricted in their movement.
When your fascia is healthy, you move, twist and bend better. Body symmetry and alignment are improved, blood flow is increased and your recover faster from exercise. Plus, there's a reduced risk of injury and less day-to-day pain.
1. Change things up and move the body as a whole. Fascia is adaptive, so if you load it, it will adapt by getting stronger. However, if you reload it the same way all the time by doing the same movement patterns, it will only end up being strong for that particular movement. We all want a functional body that can adapt to the different movements we do every day, so make sure you add variety into your movement and make sure you are moving the body as a whole.
2. Move more. A sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to unhealthy fascia, so it's important to move regularly throughout the day. Fibroblasts (the cells of the fascia) thrive in a mobile body, and remaining immobile for long periods causes these cells to die. Working out a few times a week isn't enough to keep them healthy - it's vital to keep the body active throughout the day, every day, even if it’s just doing a simple stretch after sitting for a long time.
3. Avoid repetitive movement patterns. Moving the same way over and over dehydrates the fascial tissue and creates an adhesive environment, so it's important to not overload any one area day after day. Like muscle, fascial tissue needs recovery time for collagen turnover. To build a stronger, more collagenous structure, you need a good 48-hour rest between intense workouts and need to make sure you are moving the body in a different way so the fascial system becomes strong and pliable.
So, in order to build up an injury resistant and good strong fascial network it is essential to incorporate fascial training into your day. A good Pilates program will improve the elasticity of fascia.
If you have any questions or would like to learn how to move better and feel amazing, please get in touch with the Art Of Pilates Studio in Neutral Bay.