MOVEMENT – Build a Better Workout

Put the Spring Back in Your Step by Keeping Your Fascia Healthy

By Jiji Pollock

Spring is coming, which means it’s time to put the spring back in your step and start moving! Let’s get you moving and introduce you to your fascia.

Fascial tissue is a web-like connective tissue underneath your layer of skin made up of water and collagen fibers, as well as proteins called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and proteoglycans. It is the connector to your tendons, ligaments and muscles linking your movement patterns into a kinetic chain when you dance, throw an object, lift heavy objects or run. Before your muscles move, your fascia is the first to receive the signal from your brain to get moving.

It’s taken some time, but sports performance experts are finally turning their attention to the health and function of fascial tissue to help athletes remain resilient and injury-free. But there’s no reason that everyone can’t take care of their fascia and benefit from ease of movement in everyday tasks.

Movement keeps your fascia healthy

There is strength in numbers in movement patterns: Move more and your fascia becomes stronger and acts like a trampoline to store enough kinetic energy when you walk, run, sprint or jump. The fibers of fascia found in young kids resemble multiple-direction lattice work, like a woven basket. In the book “Anatomy Trains” (Churchill Livingstone, 2014), Thomas Myers describes strong fascial membranes as a tensegrity structure where “forces are distributed rather than localized. As we age and become more sedentary, our fascia becomes soft and thin and loses its bounce and springiness.  Lack of movement causes the fascial fibers to become sticky, layer in one direction and lose their ability to glide against one another.

Change is good

Remodeling of fascial tissue restores the strength found when fascial lines run in multiple directions. The types of exercises you do or do not do make a difference in how your fascia works and in the direction your fascial network runs. Most overuse injuries in sports and life occur when movement patterns are repetitive in manner. That’s because your fascial lines are not stretched in multiple directions. Variability in movement patterns can help extend your fascial lines and function.

Hydrate often and well

Your fascial tissue is two-thirds water and works like a sponge, which absorbs water.  When you move intermittently throughout the day or during exercise, water is squeezed out and pushed into your muscles and joints. That’s another important reason to stay hydrated: Lack of hydration may cause your moving parts to feel “creaky” when you get up from a chair, walk or lift a heavy object because there is insufficient fluid to move around.

Move frequently throughout your day

Take advantage and use that reminder from your activity tracker to get up and move about. When you sit or stand for long periods, water in your fascia can accumulate in your muscles and joints, causing swelling called edema. That accumulation contains free radicals and other waste products, which may induce inflammation. When you move throughout your day, fascia helps squeeze this “sludge” out and moves it around to the appropriate places such as your kidneys and sweat glands—your organs that are designed to remove waste products.

Patience is a virtue when it comes to your fascia

Just like building your house, remodeling fascia does not happen overnight. In building a house, the cement in the foundation needs to be set. After the foundation is set, the framework within the house can be built. In order to build up your fascia and make it resistant to injury, fascia needs to set and adapt. This adaptation for fascia takes longer than muscles and tendons, which take about four weeks at a time to acclimate to the adaptation process of a training program. Fascial remodeling in a training program takes months.

Recovery matters

There is value in allowing your body to rest in between exercise sessions. When you move, the collagen fibers in fascia are destroyed. Allowing your body to rest and recover lets the collagen fibers resynthesize and form a stronger matrix in your fascial network.

Nutrition matters

Just like using the strongest building materials in your house, eating the right foods matters for your fascia. Nutrient-dense foods rich in glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans, omega-3’s, vitamin A and lycopene may boost collagen formation and repair, fortify and enhance the elasticity of fascia.

Healthy fascia is essential for strong, resilient movement. Movement is essential for fascia, and movement is essential for life. Take care of your fascia and your fascia will help you become a resilient mover, avoid injury and take you to places you can go!

Video credit: Sergey Privalov, Shutterstock
Photo credit: Paul Aiken, Shutterstock; Dan Gold, Unsplash; AnastasiaDudka, Shutterstock; Artem Postoev, Shutterstock; fizkes, iStock; Lilian Velet, Unsplash; Halfpoint, Shutterstock; Benjamin Wong, Unsplash

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Author

Jiji Pollock

Jiji Pollock has been in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years and is passionate about helping individuals maintain health through movement and sustainable healthy habits. She works as an Exercise Physiologist, Health and Human Performance Advisor with the Institute of Motion. She began her passion for health and fitness as a group fitness instructor and recreational triathlete as an undergraduate student. Pollock is a certified personal trainer (former Master Trainer at 24 Hour Fitness), holds a M.S. Kinesiology degree and is currently a PhD Candidate in Health and Human Performance at the Concordia University of Chicago. She enjoys swimming, biking, and running and enjoys rock climbing with her three sons. Her second passion is cooking and dark chocolate.  

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