I have an unusual topic to talk about with you today.
Properties of fascia and how they affect our movement and wellness choices we make. As you may recall, I taught a course at Point Park University for 12 years. Throughout those years, I discovered some resources that help students understand how this impacts your exercise/motion life. This was incredibly helpful to my efforts as a teacher regarding balance and motion solutions with a client/ student. I believe it has a lot of value to share with you.
First, what is fascia?
The quick users guide is that it is your organ of shape. Fascia is a web of connective tissue made of ultra fine collagen fibers, much like a spider’s silk, that interpenetrates and surrounds your muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures.You can get the science breakdown by reading here. What is Fascia?
Tom Myers, author, anatomist and Structural Integrator creator, does amazing work to realign fascial patterns when they are in chaos or unbalanced.When looking at the body in motion, it turns out that your fascia doesn’t respond well to lack of activity, ergonomically poor movement patterns or being limited to only one kind of activity. It really likes a blend or well rounded diet of movement opportunities, if you will. Tom teaches that we really need to combine our workouts with a variety of movement types if we want to slow down the effects of aging and make the most of our body.
Fascia -101- How do you make your exercise week balanced?
Fascia is a colloid. Colloids are substances that contain particles of solids that are suspended in a liquid.So,fascia is both fiber and fluid.Colloids exhibit a quality known as Viscoelasticity.Viscoelastic materials exhibit both viscous and elastic properties when placed under pressure.
Viscosity-is a measure resistance to flow, honey has a high viscosity, water has a low viscosity. As more force,especially at greater speeds,is applied to your joints, the fluid in the joints becomes more viscous and acts as a shock absorber. Apply enough force at a high enough speed and it may even briefly become a solid. When we do motions that put impact into our joints, structures in and around them adapt and become stronger providing more support. Some examples of motions you may want to explore are plyometrics, jumping jacks, jogging ( see Kelly Mroz for all running coaching) playing catch with a ball, (fingers and hand, arm structures) rebounding on a mini trampoline-a lot safer for many adults, the reformer, standing wall push ups, these also offer joint load responses for us.
Elasticity- is the ability of our fascia to absorb force, storing energy as the tissue lengthens and releasing the force as it returns to its original shape.
Think of a sling shot. We can train and improve our muscles and tendon’s ability to stretch and store energy that can then be released for springier, more youthful,powerful and fluid movement. Barefoot running,gymnastics, rolling and tumbling,yoga, Pilates, GYROKINESIS®, or GYROTONIC® classes are all ways to help train this property.We want to be elastic so we can store and release energy with a relaxed fluid feeling. Fluidity is a key component to ease and comfort. If your workout does not have fluidity of the limb structures or spinal motions, hips and shoulders then it affects your mobility. Imagine your most agile workout day where you could move your spine in any direction you need to and the motion feels smooth and even without snags and hiccups.
Plasticity-Fascia lengthens under load. If the load is sustained your fascia will reshape itself in response to the demand placed on it.
Too fast of a stretch and fascia can tear. After long sustained stretching, your remolded tissue is actually weaker so it is not a good idea to demand peak performance immediately after a long stretching session.It takes time for the body to lay down new collagen fibers to support the lengthened tissue.Proper stretching creates space in your body and opens the door to a wider variety of movement.
Remodeling- is what fascia does when it is torn or placed under a sustained load.
It responds by creating more fascia. This happens when the body is healing from broken bones, strains or sprains. It also happens under sustained load from slow movement such as Tai-Chi which organizes the fascia through movement. The key to remodeling the fascia is slow, sustained, gentle motions. Building muscles happens more quickly than building fascia. It can take up to 2 years to remodel the entire body.Your fascial matrix reshapes itself based on the demand you place on it.Lastly your fascia can be shaped, remodeled and coaxed into healthy patterns for when you need that. We all need this from time to time! When you perform rehabilitation exercises or receive bodywork from a trained practitioner it is a type of fascial remodeling. Lying on the foam roller or release ball for 5 min. (set your timer) is enough to remodel the fascia of the areas touching the object. Restorative movement sequences, bodywork sessions, a good rest lying in the sun or the earth, these all accomplish the effects of remodeling.
So it turns out, we need all 4 types of motion for our bodies to be strong, agile, expansive and feel comfortable.
I am going to explore this over the next months and I hope this inspires you to look at motion and be creative with mixing up your workouts. At the studio we have solutions currently for all 4 of these motion types viscosity, elasticity and plasticity and remodeling. We are working creatively to provide you with a well rounded movement education and solutions for the various needs of your body. Watch for some of our explorations of these properties in our media.