Recovery and why we need itJanuary 3, 2017 | by Anna Stec
Recovery can mean a lot of different things to people but is generally considered to be a supplemental aspect to your health and fitness goals, whether it is for sport performance, becoming pain free or for preventative reasons.
It is being recognized more as an important piece to achieve and maintain your goals, and more people are seeing the benefits of recovery work by incorporating it into their routines.
WHAT IS RECOVERY?
Recovery is generally considered to be what happens in between or after workouts. The term can refer to a wide variety of aspects including nutrition, hydrotherapy, meditation, stretching and manual therapies (foam and ball rolling). It is important to consider each area and whether it will be an advantage to your specific goals.
WHY DO WE NEED IT?
Our bodies work as an interconnected system, and areas of tension can be related to other seemingly unrelated body parts. This is due to the connective tissues of the body, which is often referred to as the fascial system. This intricate system is what makes our muscles and nervous system work seamlessly together, creating complex movement patterns that we can reproduce without conscious effort (e.g., walking, climbing stairs, etc.).
Dysfunction of the fascial system (connective tissues) can be created from acute type injuries, such as spraining your ankle, but can also develop over time with repetitive movements and postures in sport, work and leisure activities. These dysfunctions are managed by the nervous system developing alternate movement strategies and postures to continue towards the movement goal (i.e., if the right knee is sore when walking we may put more body weight onto our left leg to compensate.)
However, these are often not the optimal ways to move and overuse can develop in one particular area of the body. These compensations can continue for a long period of time, while the body continues to figure out how to manage these less than optimal movement patterns.
What all this ultimately means is diminished sport performance, pain/ache/tension/stiffness or injury.
The benefits of adding a recovery routine can include decreased soreness post workout, increased range of motion, decreased pain/stiffness/tension, increased sport and fitness performance, injury prevention, as well as other lesser known benefits such as improved sleep, digestion, concentration, mood and body awareness.
MORE ON MANUAL THERAPY
One particular area of manual therapy that has increased in popularity is the use of balls and foam rollers to self-massage areas of the body that feel tension or pain.
To change the compensation or dysfunction cycles described, we must learn how to communicate with the various types of receptors our body has, whether it is fascial (connective), muscular, joint or visceral (nervous system). This is ultimately how the ball or roller works, as it creates manual pressure on the fascial or muscle tissue receptor it is on to induce some change via the nervous system.
Usually the ball or roller is placed on the area of tension and the body is slowly moved over it. It can often cause mild discomfort depending on the body area being worked on, the condition of the tissues as well as other systemic conditions, however the benefits are usually more than worth it.
Stretching is another form of interacting with the different receptors of the muscles, joints and fascial system and can also induce positive change.
Breathing and body awareness is also a large part of successful recovery work, and must be incorporated to achieve positive results.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Learning how to unwind the compensations and how the body parts are connected via the fascial system in your own unique body take some practice, but can be learned.
Fortius Sport and Health is now offering a Recovery class series that will teach you how to identify areas of tension and compensations so you can learn how to gain the benefits of self-recovery work using manual and stretch therapies. It is led by one of our Registered Massage Therapists, and is a four class series offered at 6pm on Mondays and 1pm on Wednesdays.