Stretching Active Recovery

What is active recovery? Simply put, it’s an intentional action that we take to promote healthy repair to our body. This could be a few minutes spent foam rolling, going on a short recovery run, or taking a yoga class. As a rule active recovery should be low intensity at low volume and should mitigate rather than aggravate stress. Think warm up and cool down without the intense workout in between. In other words, your body shouldn’t feel taxed.

Throughout the week we push the limits of our bodies through repetitive movements that are designed to break down muscle and send signals to our brains that trigger adaptation. Whether our reasons are performance based or aesthetic, this is why we exercise.

Stretching Active Recovery

What many fail to remember is that in order to adapt, the body needs time to repair. The muscles and energy systems to which we’re applying stress, will only become weaker if we don’t give them this opportunity. If left unchecked long enough, this can lead to injury and chronic fatigue.
In order to give our bodies this critical repair time, it’s important to have active recovery days sprinkled into our training plan. Use these days for lower intensity exercise, stretching, or mashing and rolling. Remember that recovering thoroughly is just as important as training intensely. Treat your body wisely and it will reward you in kind.

Most of us think of fascia as a piece of tissue like a sheet of plastic that shrink wraps us just beneath our skin. Which is true, it is a superficial layer that encases and protects us, but it’s also a structural tissue that creates the framework for our internal soft tissue, forming each section in a long cylindrical honeycomb that shapes and holds everything together.

Fascia needs to be well hydrated to remain healthy and function properly. I like to think of it as a sponge. When it dries out, it becomes inflexible and crunchy. When it’s wet, it’s soft and pliable. You can bend or twist it in any number of positions and it would be difficult to damage.

If we think of our fascia this way, it’s easier to understand why it’s so important to keep it well hydrated. It also makes sense that our level of hydration has a big impact on our mobility and structural integrity. When we stretch, it’s actually the fibers of these connective tissues gliding along one another. They move freely when well hydrated, but they can tack down and become sticky when water is lacking. Simply put, when we’re hydrated, we have greater mobility and are better protected against injury.

Drinking plenty of water is obviously important, but there’s another part to this equation. If you’re fascia has been dehydrated, you’re likely to have some isolated areas in your muscles that still aren’t getting what they need. Think of a hose with a kink in it. These kinks can make it difficult for moisture to get through to the dehydrated tissue. In order to get water into these isolated areas, we need to get aggressive with our soft tissue. This is why SMR “self myofascial release” is so important. A consistent daily mash and roll session will keep the floodgates open, transporting hydration and nutrients through our muscle tissues promoting healthy mobility and safeguarding against injury. (check out this video for a better visual on muscle structure)

Take good care of your tissues and they will reward you with function and resilience. You may not have a daily mash and roll practice at the moment. Stick around for more this month as we explore our pillar of Recovery, we’ll show you how to get started and stay consistent.