By Kristin Condon
When we think about fitness, we tend to focus on our muscle strength and our performance ability. And maybe the breath and the mind, which we use to help power us through our workouts.
But dig a little deeper into the body’s wellbeing, especially when it comes to aging with vitality and preventing injury, and you’ll find that another, often overlooked part of our musculoskeletal system plays a huge role when it comes to how we’re made and how we move.
We’re talking about the fascia, a web of fibrous connective tissue that weaves through and supports all the internal parts of your body from head to toe: muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, nerves—pretty much everything. It’s a structural sheath that holds everything in place.
Fascia has gone from being the ignored stepsibling — the gunk you cut through to get to the good stuff — to the center of attention as far as bodyworkers, athletes, medical professionals, researchers (and now you!) are concerned.
Fascia adapts to the movements you do often … and that’s not a good thing
Because the fascia is interwoven throughout the entire body, including covering the muscle fiber, what happens is, it gets accustomed to your daily habits, adapting to every move you make—good, bad, or neutral. So, let’s say you sit all day and maybe your posture isn’t as good as it could be. That habitual hunching can cause the fascia in the chest area to shorten and tighten, restricting movement in your arms and shoulders.
Same goes if you’re a cycler (ahem) or a runner. As we age, the fascia starts to harden in ways that reflect the movements we do a lot.
If you think about the fascia as the “glue” that connects everything, the quality of that glue can either help support mobility and unrestricted movement — or get us stuck in limited, uncomfortable, or painful ways. When poorly adapted fascia gets sticky it can bind to muscles, other fascia, even your ligaments, limiting your range of motion and mobility and possibly leading to chronic pain and injury.
How to keep the fascia hydrated and healthy? You’ve heard it before: Cross-training.
Cross-training keeps fascia happy and healthy
We love that you love your MYX bike and really lean in to your rides! But what will help keep your fascia pliable and happy and not gunking up the works is moving your body within different planes—meaning in different ways and directions — on a regular basis. MYXing up your workouts is the way to go to prevent fascial tightness and adhesions and keep the fascia soft, springy, and supple.
And lucky for you, you have lots of options at your fingertips right here in the MYX app! Consider adding any or all of these to your workout regimen.
The asanas, or poses, in yoga are great for hydrating the fascia and keeping it supple and strong because you’re moving in many different directions and planes. And you don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel. A basic pose like Upward Facing Dog, for instance, stretches the entire superficial front lines of fascia from the tops of your feet all the way up to the sides of your neck to the back of your skull, as well as in all four arm lines.
Stretching and mobility training
Mobility exercises for the muscles and joints can help “unstick” the fascia and maintain normal fascial movement and strength. Remember when we were kids and moved freely every which way—jumping, skipping, kicking, hopping and running around? As adults, many of our daily activities (including our favorite workouts) tend to be more linear, and repetitive: we sit, we bike, we run. But our bodies are capable of so much more! Just think about the range of motion we have in the shoulders and hips and the entire spine.
Be willing to explore like you did as you were a kid. Having a good range of motion in the muscles and joints will improve your performance and decrease your risk of injury, and you’ll find lots of options for Mobility Workouts under Recovery in the app. As they say, “Use it, or lose it.”
Kettlebell training, with its dynamic, full-body functional movements, is great for fascia conditioning. The workouts use what are called preparatory countermovements—for instance, moving the kettlebell toward the body before moving it away—which require a lot of fascial elasticity to smooth out and complete the movement.
Foam rolling (myofascial release)
If you’ve been in the MYX app for a while you know that foam rolling, or myofascial release, is a great way to increase circulation and blood flow to muscle tissue, joints, and fascia, either as a pre-workout warm-up or post-exercise active recovery. The belief among trainers, coaches, physical therapists and other body workers is that the process of rolling creates friction between the roller and the muscle you’re working on, which generates heat and allows the muscle, and the connective tissue, to become more pliable.