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Engaging your fascia

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Fascia is a buzzword in the fitness world right now, some of you may be familiar with that term, and for some of you I might be speaking another language. Either way, some of the science coming out around fascia is a game changer for how we train our bodies, which is very exciting for me and you!

I am going to give you a glimpse into the awesome world of fascia and a cool way to experience your fascia on your own time.

Fascia is the connective tissue that runs through your entire body. I like to imagine it like the pith of an orange. Yes, you may be more similar to an orange than you ever thought! When you peel an orange you probably notice that inside the skin is a layer of white pith, this pith then divided the orange into different sections, then within each section the pith encapsulates a little sac of orange juice. Our bodies are the same way, fascia is under our skin, around our muscles and organs, as well as integrating with each muscle fiber.

So why is this cool you might ask? Well, scientists are now discovering that this white stuff that was once thrown out in dissection of human bodies is actually similar to muscle in that it can contract and relax. So rather than thinking of our body a whole bunch of different muscles, we can imagine our body as one giant muscle, with multiple different compartments. This means tightness in the soles of your feet could be affecting your low back, or that pesky right shoulder could be contributing to your left knee pain. Everything is connected!

To find out more about fascia check out this excerpt from a book by Brooke Thomas.

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Try this at home

For this exercise we are going to focus on the fascia in and around your ribs, this is excellent for taking deeper breaths.

  1. Lay on your back with plenty of space around you.
  2. Reach your arms up over head and your legs long underneath you, then bring all your limbs over to one side, and let your head and pelvis fallow. Now your whole body should be in a crescent moon shape.
  3. From here you can just relax and breath into the stretched side of your ribs, as well as the space between your ribs and pelvis.
  4. If your shoulders are too tight for your arms to rest down, put a pillow or bolster under your arms so they can comfortably rest into gravity. If you feel strain in your back you could also add a pillow under your knees.
  5. You can stay here for up to 5 minutes, then transition back through the center and take a couple of breaths, notice if there is difference rom side to side.
  6. Repeat to the opposite side.

Now that you’ve opened the fascia around your ribs, you might notice deeper breaths, or increased movement ability in your torso, who knows maybe your neck even feels more mobile. The cool thing about fascia is; by addressing one area you can create whole body change.

 

 

 

Spring Time Run Club!

Hey Everyone, starting in just a few weeks I’ll be beginning a four-week running workshop. In the workshop we’ll be breaking down the anatomy of running to develop efficient gait patterns and easeful running. Have you been intimidated to run in the past? Or maybe you have a regular running practice and you want to improv your form? Our first week we’ll be running just one mile, with a thorough warm-up and cool down. Spring is here, let’s go outside!

More information and enroll here!

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Stability Anytime

Stability has become a buzz word in the fitness world recently. Trainers have come to understand that being able to lift, press or pull heavy weight doesn’t equate to functional fitness and health. New challenges such as unstable or moving surfaces and balance activities are key for building strong and functional movement patterns.

You will often hear trainers refer to stabilizer muscles or stabilizer groups. What does this mean? What they are often referring to are the muscles that turn on to support the joints before you even start moving. These muscles help moderate joint position, and keep structural balance throughout the whole body.

A common exercise I recommend is a simple balance on one leg. Balancing in proper alignment with the arch of the foot lifted, the knee cap pointing toward the midfoot and the pelvis neither tucked or overly flexed with activate the muscles of stability all the way up your leg. Bad alignment will cause unnecessary gripping and inhibit proper motor control at each joint. Try your balance out on different surfaces. Variation in the surface you stand on will ask different challenges from your muscles, which is very important for building functional and versatile strength. Below I am practicing my balance on my dad’s boat while he’s fishing.

 

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neutral spine, neutral spine, neutral spine…

I have been feeling a bit like a broken record lately in Pilates classes. “Neutral spine,” I hear myself saying again and again. Yet, I often look around the room to see flattened lumbar spines, tight hip flexors and gripped low backs. I cringe and decide I need a new way of explaining this.

Here’s the long version: why neutral spine is important, and how we maintain it.

I realize the first thing we all must understand is that the spine is not a straight line, nor is it a single curve, as Joseph Pilates believed nearly a century ago. The spine is an organically shaped curving structure, designed perfectly for shock absorption and distributing forces through the rest of the body. Beginning with the skull the spine alternates between kyphotic and lordotic curves all the way to the sacrum. (See photo)

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The gelatinous disks that live in between each vertebra run the risk of being compressed or pushed out of place if the vertebrae are consistently being held out of alignment. These disks can then press on surrounding nerves and cause pain. This is the common problem of bulging or herniated disks.

Of course the spine is meant to move, and neutral is not a static position. It is a good idea to be conscious of these curves while moving the spine in different directions. During exercise is a great time to teach your muscles how to support your bones in the most optimal way. So it’s a great idea to pay attention to the neutrality of your spine in any fitness routine.

So how do we keep neutral? The first two things that come to mind are learning to use your “core” efficiently, and acknowledging your own hamstring length. We sometimes imagine the “core” to be only the frontal abdominal wall. In reality the muscles all the way around our torso work in a stabilizing way. Changing the way to perceive abdominal engagement to a three dimensional contraction around your entire waist can help keep you in neutral spine.

The other factor is hamstring length. In our society today we spend lots of time sitting; this means short, tight hamstrings. When your leg moves in front of you your tight hamstrings will pull on the bottom of your pelvis and drag your pelvis and lumbar spine along. This causes extra hip flexor gripping and flattening of the low spine. So what do we do? When your leg moves forward you can energetically feel your sits bone moving back. Only move your leg forward to where you can maintain the curve of your low back. In time you may be able to find more range or length in the back of your leg. In the meantime your lumbar spine stays happy.

I will finish with a joke I heard from a Pilates teacher friend.

So this disc and vertebrae walk in the bar. They pull up a couple stools next to a Pilates instructor. The disc leans over to the Pilates instructor and says, “Can you fix our relationship?”