One aspect of fitness that is often, and sadly, overlooked is flexibility training. Typically, when I tell my clients we are going to work on flexibility at the end of the session, I see many of their faces contort into positions that I have to say are quite impressive, but do not express excitement. In sync with the contortion, the low, drawn out sigh of DOOM. However, once they get through their challenging workout, they soon learn to welcome the flexibility portion of the session. Traditionally, flexibility training conjures up the thought of sitting on the floor, bending at the waist and reaching for the toes, or standing up, grabbing your foot and bending at your knee to stretch out the front of your upper leg. These types of stretches are still used and beneficial when performed properly. Some of the benefits of flexibility training include, correcting muscle imbalances, increasing joint range of motion, decreasing excessive tension in the muscles, and relieving joint stress. These issues can be caused by pattern overload which is performing the same movement over and over. For example, a hairstylist who is cutting and styling all day long. However, a person who is seated in front of a computer for the majority of the day or a person who performs the same workout over a long period of time is susceptible to pattern overload. Couple pattern overload with poor posture and now dysfunction within the connective tissues can occur. The body will recognize the dysfunction as an injury and will begin the repair process called the Cumulative Injury Cycle.
The Cumulative Injury Cycle begins with trauma to muscle tissue; an example could be resistance training. Muscle inflammation and spasm follow, which leads to adhesions (muscle knots). Adhesions create a weak, inelastic matrix that is unable to stretch and decreases elasticity of soft tissue. When left unchecked, adhesions can begin to create permanent structural changes in the soft tissue. The structural change can create problems at a joint; therefore, causing the body to move in an incorrect pattern of motion potentially causing dysfunction at other joints. This will cause the Cumulative Injury Cycle to continue. What will help to stop the cycle is to attack those adhesions through self-myofascial release. To do this, a foam roller is typically used. One area of the body that is prone to adhesions is the calf so I will explain how you would use the foam roller to work out the calf adhesion.
Sit on the floor with the legs stretched long, place the foam roller under mid-calf (to increase pressure, cross one leg over the other) and slowly roll the calf area until you feel a tender spot (believe me you’ll feel it). Once you are on the tender spot, hold it until you feel the discomfort subside. I suggest holding it for a minimum of 20 seconds.
The best time to use self-myofascial release is before you even start your traditional warm-up for your workout. First use the foam roll, then do a light stretch, holding stretches for 20-30 seconds. Then begin your warm-up, whether that is walking on a treadmill or doing a dynamic type of warm-up that may include jump jacks, easy squats, and push-ups. You can also do self-myofascial release after your workout and then be sure to always finish with a good flexibility session, holding stretches for a minimum of 30 seconds. Incorporating this component of flexibility training into your life and/or workout routine, will help to restore your body back to its optimal level of function. However, people who have osteoporosis, hypertension, or women who are pregnant, should check with their physician before using myofascial release.
If you would like more information about myofascial release, please contact me at email@example.com or call 715-271-9678.