When it comes to strength, muscles seem to be the focus of most athletes. But what are you doing about fasciae?
Until recently, scientists have seen fasciae as a simple connective sheathing in the body. But research now shows that it’s an important sensory organ in the body, and conditioned and well-maintained fasciae are crucial for top performance.
What is fascia?
Fasciae is an important connective tissue in the body. It is a band or sheet, primarily made of collagen, that lies beneath the skin, that attaches, stabilises, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. It runs from the top of our head to the tip of our toes.
It’s often easy to think of fasciae like glad wrap, or a three-dimensional spider’s web that knits the body together. Without this fascial network, our organs would be swimming around like soup in our body and our bones would be left dangling. Depending on the location of the body fasciae can be firm, tight and strong, or soft and flexible. Despite this, nothing works in isolation; the fasciae in our feet are connected to the fasciae in our eyebrows.
This fascinating tissue also has a plethora of sensors, which send messages to muscles and the central nervous system. The more conditioned the fasciae the more responsive the sensors and the better the body responds in terms of movement, balance and proprioception.
Fasciae also play a key role in the transfer of energy. Studies have shown that dynamic spring-like movements, such as running and jumping, are generated by fasciae. Fasciae both converts the muscle’s force into motion but they can also store kinetic energy and return it via a rebound effect. The elasticity is made possible by the structure of fasciae and their materials elastin and collagen.
So enough about the technical stuff…
How do we train fascia?
Tom Myers is a leading expert in fascial training and his top 4 tips for good fascial fitness are:
- Train in multiple movement planes and vectors
Running is a very repetitive action with a very limited range of movement. If you’re running regularly, make sure to add in other movements that train the muscles in different ranges, planes and vectors. Try yoga, tai chi, martial arts, or swimming.
- Learn to lengthen fascia by stretching it slowly and gently
Yin yoga is perfect for lengthening fasciae. The practice incorporates long slow holds (3-5mins each) but only to 60% intensity. Essentially you should almost be able to fall asleep in the stretch. Support the body with blocks, bolsters and straps. Be very careful not to tear fasciae, it has a very limited blood supply and healing can take more time than you have the patience for.
Fasciae must be hydrated to be healthy. And whilst literally drinking water keeps the body healthy, it’s activities like foam rolling and massage balls that helps to squeeze the tissues and keep them hydrated.
Runners, you’re in luck! We can encourage tissue elasticity through dynamic bouncy movement. Get running and jumping!
Here’s a quick yin yoga and foam rolling flow for all the runners looking to improve their facial fitness:
Note: the video is sped up x 6. Remember to take each stretch slow and gentle.
Or follow the photos below…