Fascia is magnificent, as a massage therapist and personal trainer I’m a bit biased, even saying the word makes me giddy. If you are into fitness you have probably heard of fascia. It’s a hot topic in research and the science is still emerging, and a bit mind-boggling. My aim with this post is not to boggle your mind, but to relate enough useful information so that you can show your fascia a little love! Let me know how I do! I’ll begin with a brief description of fascia, its properties, and how to train it intentionally.
What Is Fascia?
Fascia is a sheath of connective tissue containing multiple layers. Imagine it as an elastic, gooey mesh that is 3 dimensional, runs superficial to deep, encases your muscles, interweaves into your tendons, ligaments, bones, and between organs. Simply put, it binds and supports all our internal structures. It contains hyalauronan liquid which serves as a lubrication in-between tissue layers providing glide and flexibility to our movements. Fascia contains protein fibers of collagen and elastin and an area known as the extracellular matrix (ECM) containing vital proteins. Imagine these proteins floating in a gooey sea, where among many other things, tissue structuring and healing takes place.
This video is a great introduction to fascia.
Fascia is like our body’s internal scaffolding. It provides stability and mobility at the same time, like a half-hearted tug of war with no clear winner, other-wise, pain, compensations, and dysfunctions will ensue.
- It’s elastic! it’s able to stretch and recoil.
- It has plasticity, the ability to acquire a new resting length or shape, which happens after sustained stretching done consistently.
- It has various states of viscosity, a state of a liquid from thick and sticky to semi-liquid, influenced by internal friction and external impact. As it relates to our bodies, synovial fluid would be in the middle range of viscosity- like the consistency of raw egg white – while cerebral spinal fluid would be more like water. Viscosity affects the flow of fluids through the tissue thereby affecting its state of hydration and nutrition. I’ve embedded a video below that gives a clear visual on states of viscosity. It’s a science experiment for kids but it works!
- It heals connective tissue, shaping and remodeling it. This is most evident through the process of healing from an injury or surgery – I don’t mean to brag, but I had 3 major surgeries and I’ve been quite intimate with “happy” and “angry” fascia. Angry fascia feels highly viscous and stiff while happy fascia feels fluid, pliable, allowing full range of motion around a joint. Physical therapy is a way of manipulating this remodeling property, using specific forms of training techniques and precise angles to shape and remodel the tissue, preventing scar tissue from forming in an irregular pattern.
- It has mechanoreceptors, making it sensitive to pressure, stretch, and vibration. And contains a large amount of nerve endings – this sums up why foam rolling can feel torturous, but kind of good at the same time.
To summarize, fascia is directly influenced by our daily postural habits, physical activities, past injuries, surgeries and I would even say stress and mood. Both stress and mood affect the way we hold our bodies and the quality of our physical awareness. If you’re slumping over your desk, typing away at the keyboard without taking a minute to drink a glass of water, or greet your partner, your fascia will need some rescuing soon. Not that I, would ever do that.
How To Train Fascia
I gave that away in the title, tuck, jump, and foam roll your fascia – sort to speak. Simply put – diversify your movements. Dynamic stretching and ballistic movements will train its elasticity. Yoga, pilates, sustained stretches (2 minutes plus) over the course of months, years, will train its plasticity. I’ve embedded three great videos with Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, that go into training fascia. I can not end this post without mentioning foam rolling or SMR (self-myofascial release). These SMR techniques affect fascial health by aiding the flow of fluids, hydrating, and remodeling the connective tissue. This, is even better achieved with a therapeutic massage.
How will you choose to intentionally train your fascia? Keep in mind it’s always being stretched and pulled, whether we are sitting down reading a book, walking through the park, or playing with our children – our movements, our postures, collectively add up to our body’s present state.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. As always, your feedback and comments are appreciated. As a side note, I am working on adding instructional videos, fitness routines, and premium content related to my posts and readers’ fitness inquiries on a paid subscription basis, more on that soon. Until next post!
Stand tall, Breathe deep,