Dry Sauna: 20 Peer-Reviewed Reasons to Use It

sauna

Looks relaxing, doesn’t it?

 

It is one of the least used and least understood pieces of equipment in the average health club, but there are a number of reasons why adults and children should be making its use a regular priority. Given the number of benefits it provides, it is definitely more important than the squat rack that’s always taken by guys doing bicep curls (it should be mentioned, the squat rack is not for bicep curls).

You need to be using the dry sauna. Regularly

Most of my clients make a sour face when I say that. Why would anyone honestly want to go into a tiny wooden room to sit and sweat for an extended period of time? It’s disgusting. It’s boring. It takes too much time. I know. Read on.

It works. I’ll be addressing the aforementioned sanitary issue in an upcoming post on sauna etiquette (preview: Shower off the axe body spray or everyone will hate you. Heat increases the evaporation rate of the known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors Axe contains. If that doesn’t bother you, congratulations! You’re a terrible, inconsiderate person that does bicep curls in the squat rack), but for now you can rest-assured in knowing that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

Studies have consistently shown that regular sauna use can:

  1. Significantly improve lung function with respect to Asthma, Bronchitis, COPD, and other obstructive pulmonary diseases
  2. Decrease the risk of heart disease
  3. Improve hemodynamics and cardiac function for those experiencing congestive heart failure
  4. Reduce hypertension
  5. Decrease coronary risk factors (due to improved vascular function)
  6. Decrease the risk of myocardial infarction
  7. Decrease symptoms of depression
  8. Decrease rheumatic pain
  9. Decrease complications created by autoimmune disorders
  10. Decrease the severity of chronic fatigue symptoms
  11. Reduce anorexia
  12. Improve insulin sensitivity
  13. Decrease the risk of dementia
  14. Decrease all-cause mortality risks by up to 40%
  15. Elevate growth hormone and growth hormone releasing hormone levels
  16. Lower cortisol levels
  17. Decrease symptoms of psoriasis
  18. Increase endorphin sensitivity
  19. Did you see #18?
  20. #18 means sauna use will make you feel good, and then make it easier for you to feel good in the long-term.

There are contraindications, of course. Specific heart conditions, acute phases of certain respiratory conditions, high-risk pregnancies, etc, but it is important to note that sauna is safer on the heart than most daily activities for almost everyone. It is safe during normal pregnancy in healthy mothers, doesn’t decrease fertility in men or women, and is safe and well tolerated in healthy children.

It is also important to note that all of the studies related to the detoxifying effects of sauna use were radiant-heat saunas, as infrared saunas typically don’t reach the same temperatures as radiant-heat saunas. Infrared heat doesn’t penetrate as deeply either; with near infrared being the deepest tissue penetration of IR heat, infrared only acts primarily on the cutaneous nerves and vessels (making it great for the circulatory system).

Most of the studies I reference were conducted using Finnish saunas with temperatures ranging between 80-100° C (176-212° F) at 10-20% humidity. Most gym saunas in the US are capped (arbitrarily) at 82°C (180°F). In my experience, hotter is preferable (shout-out to Vōda Spa in West Hollywood with the giant, scorching banya).

The takeaway from all of this, though, is that sauna use can be good for you, even if you have health problems. If you don’t have health problems, regular use of the sauna has been proven to decrease your risk of ever getting them. You have a membership at a health club to stay healthy, fit, and perform at your best, so do it.

hockey-sauna

“Is this heaven?” “No, this is Finland.”

And athletes, I didn’t forget about you. The performance benefits cannot be overstated, but you have to use it right. Sauna increases skin temperature, cutaneous blood flow, heart rate, and cardiac output. Important to consider for exercise and performance, though, is the fact that it does NOT increase blood flow to the muscles or internal organs. Why is that important?

Sauna is not an effective warm-up. A warm-up for sport, competition, activity, etc, is designed to increase blood flow to the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the joints that will be used to prepare the body for intense activity. Awkward stretching or Floyd Mayweather style shadowboxing right before a workout seems right because we’ve seen other people do it, but it doesn’t make sense if your goal is a better workout. Skip the sauna before (or directly after) your session.

To achieve the best results from your time spent sitting in the heat, it is best to use it as a separate session altogether like, say, a massage or mobility session, or one of your two-a-days (think about the growth hormone/cortisol relationship). The sauna is a tool for recovery as much as it is for general wellness. Its short-term influence on growth hormone can also significantly reduce the symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness and other soft tissue injuries like sprains and tears.

Just as with your exercise routine, you will need a well programmed and planned sauna routine that works as a complement to what you do in the kitchen and the training room. What is your goal? The general recommendations only work until they stop working—then you need to get specific.

I’d love to help you design a good protocol that works, but you have to consult your healthcare provider first. Since I’m not a doctor, I would love to share with you the peer-reviewed research that I have found and you can discuss that with your doctor. Knowledge is power.

 

 

For more information, you can contact me here, here, here, here, here or here:

Antidote – 2319 Timberloch Place, Suite F, The Woodlands, TX 77380 – (281) 803-9930

 

“Non-Responder”

When I was a personal trainer at VillaSport, I ran into this “nonresponder” problem quite a bit. The place has a magnificent cardio floor, occupied day and night by the young and old, male and female, endlessly burning calories. You could even set your watch by some of the dedicated. Some are still up there, these years later, and some, fortunately, have changed it up and seen their bodies change as a result.

 

We have a lot of triathletes in The Woodlands, and running is incredibly popular here because of it. Unfortunately, through no fault of its own, it is the most visible of “healthy” exercise choices, mainly due to the fact that scores of generally thin, toned people crowd the sidewalks and roadways, pounding the pavement, at any given time of day. For the newly dedicated to fitness, this may seem to be the most efficient path to reaching their goals, no matter what they are.

 

“Tough Mudder? There’s running in that so I might as well start there.”

“Weight loss? Yeah, you gotta burn calories to lose weight.”

“Something new? Yeah, I’m running a half-marathon this year.”

 

Dedication is absolutely necessary to achieving any goal. Unfortunately, when it comes to exercise, that isn’t the only variable that is involved. “The Biggest Loser” is a fantastic example of this, as most contestants have a rebound weight gain shortly after the show ends. You have to create a good base of training, otherwise the short-term “honeymoon phase” will be just that, short term, after which you find yourself with unrealized expectations and potential, looking for something else fulfilling.

 

Long-term success with any fitness routine requires that it be analytical and harmonic, adapting with the needs of the individual on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. You can be as dedicated as you want to a specific modality and spend countless hours doing it, but unless it causes your body to continually adapt, you’re just going through the motions. In the best case, you’re wasting time, in the worst case, you’re injuring yourself and making the work harder, later.

 

How does your training affect your body’s primary energy systems? Are those energy systems being recruited to their full potential? What about the muscles in your kinetic chain, do you have them all? That is to say, do you possess the cortical map (brain power) to actually cause the right muscles to fire given the right circumstances? What about your joints? Can you move your toes? That sounds ridiculous but a great majority of my clients can’t differentiate between their big and little toes. That affects rotation of the foot, which affects the knee, which affects, among others, the hip, SI joint, shoulder, and head.

 

This is not a post designed to bash running, I truly believe there is a fundamental human joy in being able to do it. What I am trying to convey, however, is the importance of thinking about the end goal. If you want to lose weight, for example, why choose running as a modality? If you want to run marathons forever, why start with running? Why not create, through training, the best foot, then the best ankle, then the best knees, hips, etc. It doesn’t take long at all when you substitute the right exercise for the wrong exercise.

 

Foundational to manipulating a training regimen for specific goals is knowledge of the rules that dictate the body’s isolated structures and their global relationships. The NYT article I shared recommends trying all sorts of modalities out for a month to see how you respond to each, to find the one that “works for you.” I recommend you find yourself a coach that knows about the body. A personal trainer will happily guide you through endless “whatevers” (as I call them)—miles, sprints, wall ball slams, box jumps, jump-around-like-a-jackass’s— but a good coach will set you up with a program that builds you a base wide enough to support whatever lofty goals you may have today or whatever new goals may come tomorrow.

 

Contact Antidote, 2319 Timberloch Place, Suite F, The Woodlands, TX, 77381, 281-803-9930

Hockey Hips

4634004121

No stranger to hip problems,  Tyler Seguin is currently healthy.

I was watching the Dallas Stars play the Calgary Flames tonight and my eyes drifted to the news ticker at the bottom. I saw that yet another NHL player was out with a bum hip. I have some pretty unique hip issues from playing hockey so I wanted to see how many other pros are dealing with the same thing this season. This is a short google search:

Groin

Jaromir Jagr, Kris Versteeg, Jeff Zatkoff, Jonathan Quick, Joonas Korpisalo, Tyler Ennis, Hudson Fasching, Blake Comeau

Hip

Jason Dickinson, Ales Hemsky, Thomas Vanek, Andrew Ference, Luke Opilka, Jared Cowen, Aaron Rome

This was one of the shortest searches I could do, but I did go to page two. I put Aaron Rome in italics because he’s the reason I wanted to talk about this. He’s been out for a couple of seasons and he’s the first name that pops up when you search “NHL hip injury.”  Aaron Rome played for the Dallas Stars towards the end of his career and in 2014 had to leave a game versus the St. Louis Blues because he threw a hip check that put him out of order. That was the beginning of the end for him, and now his lawyers assert that the hit was “career ending.” He is now suing the NHL and his insurance company because he is no longer able to play. It’s all in the hips.

461398127

This is a Getty image, obviously. Is this the hit that did it?  I’m not sure, but even though it looks like a “light” hit, its still enough to destroy an ailing hip.

So why the emphasis on hockey players’ hips? I just turned 30 and I already have osteoarthritis in my right hip.It started slowly as inflexibility from hockey and was reinforced by weight training. Hip pain sucks, and I’ve only recently started to experience some relief, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Hockey players, specifically, suffer hip injuries at a much higher rate than does the rest of the sporting population (except the NFL). A 2011 study of NCAA Division 1 and Professional hockey players found that 77% of them had hip and groin MRI’s that were indicative of pathology even if they were experiencing zero symptoms. Another published study that looked at younger players found high incidences of hip angles that were correlated with labral tears and cartilage damage in the joint. 93% of the midget hockey players that participated had hip angles greater than 55° — again, indicative of labral tears and cartilage damage. Midgets are 16-18 years old. The news is better for the 13-15 year olds, only 63% of them are at risk. The 10-12 year olds are better yet at 37%.

Higher hip angles leads to an increased chance of forming bony over growths as a result of compression. They call it Femoral Acetabular Impingement and it sucks. Imagine a ball and socket joint, but instead of being nice and smooth, the ball has an asymmetrical lump on it. Sometimes this causes pain, sometimes it doesn’t. Before moving on, I’ll mention that the study also said that this problem is often misdiagnosed as a hip or groin strain. How many NHL players on that list above are dealing with hip or groin pain?  Trick question, all of them.

Remember the problem is called Femoral Acetabular Impingement. The first two words just mean hip joint, Latin just sounds cooler. Impingement means “to strike or dash especially with a sharp collision,” which is a pretty vivid way of getting the point across. Collision, or rapidly coming together, should not be happening in a joint that is meant to be relatively friction-less. How do we fix that?

Add space. You have to add space.

The pelvis has multiple axes that move synergistically with every motion. It rotates in a number of directions with a given movement. Repeat a movement long enough and your body gets strong for that movement. If you don’t work to de-train that movement, your body can get more and more frozen in that position. The muscles that are meant to move around and with one another become a unit of glued-together, poorly functioning muscles. Since hockey players rarely or never quit, they just work around these imbalances and further reinforce them.

Enough about the problem though, I’m a solutions guy. Back to the space.

Foam rolling crushes a space (squish a sponge), bad stretching compresses a space (wring a towel), but ELDOA and myofascial stretching for the hips and pelvis can open the space and pull water back into the crushed, spongy joint space, or normalize and hydrate that tightly wrung muscle. There are several NHL players from several different teams that currently swear by these exercises, which I can say with certainty is the only reason the above list isn’t longer.

Coaches used to tell me to stretch and I can remember laughing them off, and doing it half-heartedly when I did. For a while, I thought I was the exception, but the research is starting to show that I’m a little bit closer to the rule. Since rules rarely change, I know youth hockey players rarely stretch.

The only way to stop FAI is to keep the joint space open and normalized, and the only way to do that is with a properly written exercise program that includes ELDOA, myofascial stretching, and segmental strengthening.

Waiting will only make the condition worse, so call me to get started today (281) 803-9930.

 

**EDIT 11/30**

My good friend Dan Hellman, of Hellman Holistic Health in Ft. Lauderdale, has put out a video on why you should NOT foam roll. It’s an hour long, but well worth the watch. You can find it here.

Flu/Treat-your-body-like-crap Season

Daylight savings time is here this weekend and I’m happy to be getting an “extra hour” of sleep. For some reason our little nation of farmers has decided this process is essential to the optimal functioning of our society, so the habit remains.

Unfortunately, this time of year is also the beginning of flu season. With daylight savings time and day-shortening causing circadian stress, the body’s natural wake/sleep cycles are disrupted. The average American is bombarded with stressors every day in the form of a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, emotional stress, etc, and that wears on the natural defenses. The immune system can only work so hard and when the load gets too great, you get sick.

There are several things you can do to help boost your immunity this flu season and they contribute significantly to the reason I haven’t needed a flu shot in years.  I could go into the science behind all of these but we both have things to do so I won’t waste your time.  Just reach out if you have any questions.

  1. Drink lots of water. Water helps to flush out the bad stuff and strengthens the good stuff. You’re going to pee more frequently so practice holding it and you can train the muscles of your pelvic floor as a bonus. Also, you’re not hydrated when you can pee clear, you’re hydrated when you can do that for 60+ days in a row.
  2. Get enough sleep. People tend to argue with me on this one but studies consistently show that getting more sleep is good for you. Turn off the lights and TV at night and try to read a book. If you fall asleep quickly, you need it, and waking up early to work out only makes sense if you’re getting enough rest. Sometimes it is much more beneficial to skip the lift.
  3. Eat for your needs. It’s nearly the holiday season, I get it. Cookies, pies, cakes, candies, alcoholic everything. It’s hard not to get excited until you realize that stuff can have some pretty negative effects for up to 3 days after consumption, or life if you decide to push it. The “bug I get every [Nov/Dec/Jan]” is probably due to the life disrupting schedule changes or the food you’re hoovering every holiday season. Sugar decimates the immune system. See option #1 should you decide do skip this suggestion.
  4. Move, and move differently. Exercise is a funny thing. It’s good for you until it’s bad for you, and vice versa. The same goes with stretching, yoga, you name it—even too many ELDOA in the same position can be unnecessary. If you’ve been doing something regularly, mix it up. If the underlying theme is that you want “a good burn” or something that “kills you” then try something that makes you feel alive, or something chill.
  5. Be quiet. I prefer the sauna as my quiet place, and it seems to go with the cold weather in places that aren’t Texas, but anywhere will do. Turning off the noise, especially the holiday noise, can significantly lower stress levels. The research is beginning to prove what the anecdotal evidence has shown all along, mindfulness, meditation, deep-breathing and the like has directly positive effects on the immune system. The harder time you have quieting your mind, the more you need it.

It sounds pretty easy but it takes focused effort to do it, but it’s not the kind of effort that takes a significant change in your daily schedule. You’re already doing most if not all of these things. Good for you! You’re the best!

Now do just a liiiittle bit better.

These habits done well all contribute to the most important factor in regulating the immune system. Happiness. Find some happiness this holiday season, if we can all turn off our screens for just a few more minutes a day, we’ll see that it’s all around us.

Contact Antidote for more information about coaching, ELDOA, myofascial stretching, and more at (281) 803-9930.

Rotator Cuff Recommendations

I came across an article a few days back on triathlete.com while scrolling through my phone in an airport (listed here: http://www.triathlete.com/2016/10/training/importance-strengthening-rotator-cuff_295647).

Ironically enough, that habit —craning over a smartphone/tablet/keyboard – is what is contributing to the increase in shoulder and neck problems for most Americans. The article describes a bit about shoulder pain and what causes it in a broad sense, but in my opinion it didn’t give you, the athlete, enough information to act upon.

“The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles that surround the shoulder joint and help hold the humerus bone of your upper arm in the shoulder socket.”

Yes, and no. That’s like saying a car is made of wheels. You get partial credit at best. Tendons, ligaments, bones and muscles all play a synchronous part in holding the shoulder together. The shoulder is a collection of 5 joints and the quality of movement between all of the tissues of the respective joints need to be managed in order to correct or strengthen the joint complex. Each of the tissues that surround the shoulder play an important role in its overall function. Living tissue is always communicating with the brain, giving feedback in real-time as it moves through space. Without understanding this, you can’t go on to correct an impingement or frozen shoulder by the standard stretch/strengthen model alone.

The point that irked me and made me want to write my first blog post in 6 months is the fact that they pass off the cortisone injection as effective treatment. It doesn’t take much effort to find that cortisone reduces swelling, but it has a dark side. Swelling is an important part of the healing process, and while we don’t want it to persist, we certainly need it. Cortisone causes weak tissue to stay weak longer. It can’t respond as well to the given movement, so another part of the joint or body takes over. This is the root cause of the repetitive injury cycle and keeps a revolving door policy at injection-happy clinics.

In keeping with today’s trends, the article has bullet-points and basic exercises at the end. We’re all lazy when it comes to reading, I get it, so I’ll do the same, but modify theirs a bit.

See a doctor. Definitely do that. I’m not one. They can take images of the shoulder and that can be useful. Surgery and injections are overrated. You need to know that there are in many cases other options that utilize your body’s healing processes much more effectively than going on the chopping block.

Take it easy. They say lay off the upper-body work. I say do better upper body work and quit being stupid about it. See more below.

Ice it. Nope. Only immediately after an injury. Otherwise you need to know how to move to get those healing fluids to the joint—that’s where I come in.

Try an NSAID. Again, I’m not a doctor. I know how to read though, and there is plenty of research that shows that NSAID’s definitely damage your gut lining. When the gut lining is damaged, the inflammatory processes that take place can cause joint pain. So, if you’re having joint pain and you want more joint pain, do that NSAID thing.

Start rehabbing. Finally a solid recommendation, but then they miss the mark. The exercises they list can help you, unless they don’t. The body and postural issues are based on the model of complexity. If multiple different areas of the body can’t work together, then neither of the parts can work correctly. Trying, for example, the “seated dumbbell external rotation” can help you if you have awareness in your shoulders and can put the shoulder blade in the right position. If you’ve been injected with cortisone, iced too much, or have rested too long, this movement suddenly becomes dangerous.

It’s best to find someone trained in how to deal with the body as a complex system. By focusing on the complication, you miss what is causing the problem. You need to know what ranges of motion and what parts of the muscle are compromised and focus on strengthening them, or else your problem will persist. I use ELDOA, Myofascial Stretching, Analytical and Segmental Strengthening, and Pumping exercises to normalize the body and remove the causes of pain. After a long and painful battle trying to find a solution for my subacromial impingement, I found that I was my own best therapist.

I can show you how to be yours. Contact me today at (281) 803-9930.

Cheerleading Catastrophe

“Cheerleading accounts for more than half of catastrophic injuries to girl athletes”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/cheerleading-accounts-for-more-than-half-of-catastrophic-injuries-to-girl-athletes/2013/09/10/52ecdcc8-16e8-11e3-a2ec-b47e45e6f8ef_story.html

Read the article above and you’ll see that there are a lot of young athletes in the Woodlands that are ticking time bombs for injury. The competitive cheer atmosphere up here keeps them on the move, and with the stress of school some can have a hard time recovering. Add in a suboptimal diet and growth spurts, and injuries are pretty much a guarantee. Throw in the random concussion from time to time and you may even find yourself second-guessing how safe the sport can really be.

My style of coaching allows me the versatility to train young athletes depending on their individual needs. The difference between classmates, teammates, and even siblings’ growth rates and skill acquisition can vary widely, and using a broad approach to conditioning, stretching, and movement coaching for an entire team can inevitably expose weak points in the training process. With children having reconstructive knee surgeries, you need someone trained in the management of all the knee’s subtle motions to ensure the integrity of the joint is maintained through puberty and beyond.  This type of coaching, unfortunately, is not widely available.

The first step in any program I write is to find and build awareness. You can’t change anything unless you are aware of its presence. I know too many local youth that continue to experience the same injuries while doing what they love, and that demonstrates to me a lack of awareness to the problem. This can literally cause a lifetime of pain. In my mind, it is worth it to me to take the steps to train your child (or yourself) in the right movements so they don’t spend their life’s energy fighting their own alignment. When you think about it in those terms, it really brings you to awareness.

A coaching session with Antidote can be your first step to building it. I utilize a number of exercise techniques to build awareness, rehabilitate injuries (even concussions), and strengthen and stabilize joints through ELDOA and more. I’m not a miracle worker, but my clients do recover faster. Call me at (281) 803-9930 for more information.

Problems Afoot

I read the following article on Triathlete Europe’s website a couple weeks ago:

Try This Technique For Battling Plantar Fasciitis

“After function is restored, regular at-home use of rollers, therapy balls or even a golf ball to massage the plantar fascia can help support the health and mobility of the foot.”
Read more at http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2016/07/25/try-technique-battling-plantar-fasciitis

It got me thinking, so I had to write this:

A little over 10% of the population will experience plantar fasciitis, a severe heel pain, at some point in life. It is a miserable condition, and the risk increases with overuse, obesity, flat feet, and age. Yet more will deal with foot, ankle, and low leg pain that never seems to go away. During my time as a coach, I’ve heard the above recommendations and seen other ridiculous techniques for dealing with muscle pain, but unless the cause—a mismanagement of tension—is addressed, then the pain will continue. I have this conversation far too often, so I’m putting it down in writing.

First, let’s talk about overuse. It takes roughly 300-500 repetitions to create a movement pattern, but it takes 5000-7000 reps to correct a motor pattern. That’s all well and good I guess, but consider that walking one mile is around 2000 steps. You may want to re-consider running “just a few miles” with an injury. At 6-10,000 bad repetitions, you might never run the same again. Sure you can work to correct it by doing those 5000-7000 repetitions, right? Right, but they need to be perfect to reset your patterns. Do you pay attention to every step? And really, why is it so important to pay attention to all of this?

All of the numbers above are broad, loose estimates that serve to illustrate the importance of this point: The foot is designed to be an intermediary, a messenger between the ground and our more superior body parts. It is an intricate tensegrity network of different types of tissues, all of which are dependent on each other for efficient and painless function. Take some time to look at the tensegrity link and you will understand that a tensegrity structure can manage tension, but too much tension in any segment of the structure will affect the whole structure in some way. Any part of the foot that is affected through injury, inflammation, or immobility will affect the whole foot. Eventually the knees and hips will pay, giving rise to movement imbalances that can alter the connective tissues that run from the bottom of the foot to the low back to the neck and shoulders.

Plantar fasciitis is a global issue and shouldn’t be looked at as an acute inflammatory process that is only taking place on your foot. That’s true in part, locally, but again it is a mismanagement of tension, globally. It must be managed as such. If you squish the bottom of the foot, congratulations! Your legs, hips, shoulders, head, eyes, etc., can still be out of order and you’ll get no relief. I have clients that have TMJ pain that is only corrected by developing awareness in the feet. It is all connected.

Now is my time to say that I DO NOT RECOMMEND using a lacrosse ball, golf ball, foam roller, or orbital sander on any part of your body— especially the foot. The fascia responds best when its processes are respected, and it is easily torn or permanently damaged by using medieval tactics like these. Of course it feels better after doing it, adding a painful stimulus on top of existing pain just leads to pseudo-relief when the stimulus is removed.

Some of these techniques create lingering pain-patterns in the nerves. Most often, the painful “trigger points” found while rolling are the innervation points. Like the hairs on your arm, there are nerves in the body that poke through different layers of tissue. Those nerves are there for a number of reasons, but you can further sensitize these nerves by constantly subjecting them to trauma which creates a type of recurring pain, a feedback loop that pushes you to do more rolling, more grinding on your tissue. In this way it becomes an addiction, the more you do, the more you need to do (drugs? In a greater irony, you may need drugs if you continue to kill your nerves). The sensitive tensegrity (there’s that word again) structures of the foot are designed to feel. Mechanically induced pressure at such incredible forces just doesn’t make sense based on the rules of our physiology. Watch the video below for a better understanding of soft tissue. Rolling is not a good way to manage the tension.

Myofascial release is a fluidic process in the body, as the film “Strolling Under the Skin” beautifully demonstrates. The video is long, but worth it.

So what can be done for plantar fasciitis? How do we manage tension if using force is less than ideal?

You have to move fluid. If you watched the video above, you see how important water is to the body’s connective tissues. We know that takes pressure, but how much pressure? The answer is less than you think. Like rivers, the flow to certain tissues can be increased, decreased, or dammed. It can be easily re-directed with the smallest of inputs. Imagine a dam made of rocks, if you pull out the right one, the whole thing crumbles. The flow in the body works much in the same way. Remember, the fascia can and does remodel and heal itself via the inflammatory process; our job is to move the fluid to where it is needed, and then get out of the way to let the body do its work. You don’t need dynamite for the dam, just the right rock, so to speak.

Now you can “stretch.” Once the fluid is moving to the right areas, you can begin to normalize the tissue. Myofascial stretching, when done properly, is also considered myofascial strengthening because it works the fascial network as a complete system. It moves muscles through extreme ranges of motion, normalizes tone, develops awareness, and reorganizes the structure of the fascia. The organization of the tissue needs to be respected, though. While just starting with myofascial stretching of the hamstrings or calves can be helpful for plantar fasciitis, you still need to move fluid into the tissue before it can be effectively stretched. Stretch a dry rubber band and watch it pop, oil it and it stretches just fine. Get the fluid moving inside before you do anything else.

Strengthening comes next. Most usually it is necessary to strengthen the joint in all ranges of motion with segmental strengthening before integrating global movements like the squat. A mismanagement of tension places excessive pressures on specific areas, so you have to train some of the weaker supporting structures to take a higher percentage of load. This process not only serves to reinforce the unit but also gives you awareness within the joint, the foundation for improving motion.

It sounds like loads of work because, honestly, it is. With the right mindset and goals, though, you’ll realize that it is not only possible but also necessary to do if you want to stop oscillating between peak performance and those nagging injuries. In my opinion, the oscillation is a bigger load of work  because you’re wasting your energy doing the same thing year in and year out. If you change your mindset, your new routine will replace the old routine for a little while and, before you know it, you will be balanced.

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An example of what it can take to play through the pain with plantar fasciitis.

The process of breaking down the injury cycle is the same for everyone, but the exercise program is different for most of the population as compared to athletes. I’m not foolish enough to tell a competitive athlete to cancel the rest of the season. If your job is to win, you have to win. Your injury can be managed so that you can do your job. The affected area can be strapped or taped, then proprioception and analytical work can be done, and you can get on with your job. Your body will pay, but the off-season is there for a reason. You can get ahead of the curve when the time is right.

If you’re a weekend warrior that just wants to stay healthy, you should probably stop killing yourself. Take a break to heal. “No pain, no gain” “100% grind” “24/7/365” and all that crap makes for good memes, but beyond that it just leads you down a path towards exorbitant medical bills. The further you compound your imbalances, the more permanent they become. I get it if you’re one of the driven and you want to group yourself into the competitive athlete bunch. No pain no gain right? Right. I have clients that live by that mantra and that’s ok, but I’ll say it again, your body will pay.

For whatever reason, the current trend in fixing injuries like plantar fasciitis is to hold stretches with force and crush the hell out of your soft tissue, but that’s not how the body most optimally responds. In some cases it can work, but when it’s not working well enough, there are much more effective and permanent ways of healing. I would love to show them to you.

You can contact me at (281) 803-9930 or by email at jonathan@antidote.fm.