Fascia is the key connective tissue below the skin that can cause a tight, knotted feeling. But show it some TLC and it will help you move well for life.
The fascia network
Fascia is like a full-body webbing: It keeps everything in place below the skin’s surface, wrapping your muscles, bones, organs, nerves and blood vessels in an interconnected network of collagen and elastic ﬁbres. Every step and squat – and every hour sedentary – affect your fascia, says Arkady Lipnitsky, a chiropractor at Rebalance NYC wellness centre in the US. “If your joints feel stiff when you get up after sitting for a long period, you can blame the fascia, which has temporarily lost its elastic properties and ﬂuid resilience,” says exercise physiologist Sue Hitzmann, a founding member of the Fascia Research Society. “Move around and the feeling goes away. That’s one big reason why movement is so essential.”
When things get kinky
Over time (or because of an injury), fascia can tear, become inﬂamed or shortened, or stick together – you may experience those adhesions as knots. Consider the common case of plantar fasciitis, that underfoot pain you can get when running. The ache is caused when the fascia that runs from your heel bone to the front of your foot along the arch is inﬂamed from being repeatedly overstretched, says sports medicine physician Dr Jordan Metzl in The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies. (The ﬁx: rest from the off ending activity and gentle foot ﬂexes.) Meanwhile, major adhesions can restrict movement and even prevent muscles from contracting efficiently, limiting ﬂexibility, mobility and strength, Arkady says.
Massaging and relaxing the fascia can help prevent issues with it. Such myofascial release – using pressure from hands or tools – and stretching keeps the fascia supple, says Ashley Black, who
helps clients maintain a healthy fascia and created the Fasciablaster tool. “With tight spots, go easy,” she says. “It takes light, brisk scrubbing motions to break them up.” Research in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that pre-workout foam rolling and roller massage can also up mobility and reduce postworkout soreness. “Myofascial release increases blood ﬂow to the area, which can alleviate pain and help you recover from a workout faster,” says Dr Armin Tehrany, founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care, an orthopaedic centre in the US.
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Incorporate running into your weekly ﬁtness routine – the results just might surprise you.
Are you a die-hard yogi who has hit a plateau in your physical practice, a weight-training enthusiast who wants to advance your ﬁtness goal, a swimmer who wants to go faster and further, or just someone who simply wants to be healthier? Chances are, you are loading up on resistance or strength training, or intensifying your workout frequency.
We let you in on a better way to take your ﬁtness up a notch: swop one of your weekly training sessions for a run. Here’s why:
Running improves lung capacity
A form of aerobic exercise, running – especially when done regularly – can help you get more out of your lungs, increasing oxygen capacity (so you can take in more oxygen with each breath) and thereby reducing breathlessness. With improved lung capacity comes improved stamina and increased endurance. Over time, you will ﬁnd that you can go faster and further while still breathing easy; tiring moves in resistance training – or even basic poses in yoga, such as the downward dog – also become more bearable when held for longer periods of time.
Running provides a full-body workout
A great cardio workout that gets the heart pumping, running works not just the lower-body muscles, but also the core and auxiliary muscles. The biceps, for instance, are engaged when you pump your arms, while the core muscles work to stabilise the spine and maintain the correct posture to minimise injury during runs. Some experts have also said that cardio exercise can up the aerobic capacity of the fast-twitch muscles that give you strength and power to carry bigger loads.
Running is a great active recovery exercise
It seems counterintuitive, but running can actually help with muscle recovery, by promoting blood circulation to reduce both the intensity and duration of muscle soreness after your harsher workout sessions. The key is to make it a short, relaxed run and keep a steady pace.
Running builds your mental strength
While all exercises require willpower, there’s nothing like a long, steady run to test your mental strength. Once you fall into a comfortable rhythm though, you get to relax and reﬂect, which is why running is so therapeutic for many.
Running effectively burns fat
To get into fat-burning mode, you will need to chalk up at least 30 minutes in a slow jog. For better results, go for an HIIT running workout, alternating sprints, jogs and walks. You can use a mobile app such as Aaptiv, a free audio-based ﬁtness app (available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play) that off ers pre- programmed HIIT routines, to guide your runs.