Exercise is good for you. That is what has been hammered into our minds for the last twenty to forty years. Whether its running, lifting weights, hitting a tennis ball on the weekend with your significant other as long as you are moving. Across the spectrum we as society agree that exercise is beneficial to your health. Where we disagree is in two areas: the specific type and the volume. This article is in response to the latter of the two areas. When exercise volume becomes too much to handle, there are three popular solutions. The first is to decrease volume and reduce the number of training or exercise hours performed per week. The second, change the stimulus to vary the type of exercise. The third, continue to exercise until something negative occurs. The last is the least optimal solution to the problem. Fortunately, there is a forth option that has gained tremendous momentum in the past decade: accumulate more time mobilizing and recovering from exercise.
Recovery, or regeneration, has been an essential constituent to high intensity training for years now, and every year scientists and like-minded professionals develop new modalities to allow more training time in the week. Commonplace is the stationary bike on the sidelines for professional football games, reserved for injured players getting back into the game. Stretching (both dynamic and static) is now built into the "warm-up" and "cool-down." Gone are the days where we walk into an exercise facility and head straight for the heaviest weight to pick up without some preparatory period beforehand and/or a plan to bring equilibrium back. Fortunately our knowledge of keeping us healthy has expanded exponentially! Our ability to recover post-exercise now allows athletes and weekend warriors to keep up with their bodies and decrease injury rates!
In this brief article I’ll keep the various modalities for regeneration, or regen for short, to four basic categories. These four are: food, sleep, musculoskeletal, and specialty. The third category is where our attention is directed in this article. Note, these categories are subject to change as research expands and an increase in methods reveal themselves down the road.
To briefly clarify what each category consists of, food supplies the raw materials our body needs (besides oxygen and the various gases in the air) to maintain our bodily functions. Sleep is our reset button, allowing the muscles to filter out metabolic wastes, the heart to slow down and recover from the stresses of the day, and the brain to activate the glymphatic system and prepare for tomorrow’s demands. The specialty category consists of either new or controversial modalities of regeneration, including synthetic hormones (steroids), electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), and cold thermogenesis (some of you might not know what those last two are; do not worry they will be explained in future upcoming articles). In the musculoskeletal category are the tools we can use to keep injury at bay and prevent what is known as overtraining (the inability to adapt to a training stimulus).
In caring for the musculoskeletal system, different types of mobilization and regeneration methods exist. The first and most common is stretching. We have all reached for our toes and attempted to alleviate the tightness in our hamstrings after a long run or an exhausting day of sitting down for eight hours. Coaches and trainers all preach the benefits of stretching after exercise, and sometimes even as a precursor to it. Stretching will not go away and it is pretty safe to say the majority of us could use a little more on a daily basis (myself included). Another is foam rolling, more formerly known as self-myofascial release. Oh yes the thing that your trainer tells you to get on before almost every session and you try not to roll your eyes when he or she turns around. Almost every benefit from massage therapy can be derived from rolling on those black cylinders. Increasing or restoring range of motion in those knees and hips, relieving tension in your upper back, and even removing pain in your lower back are a few to say the least.
The three main benefits to self-myofascial release are as follows: decrease in muscle and tendon tension, decrease in neuromuscular hypertonicity, restoration and healthy muscular elasticity. Through these three benefits, joint pain will be relieved, range of motion will be restored, muscle soreness will decrease, and many more beneficial results will occur. After reviewing these benefits, could five to ten minutes on a foam roller be worth your while?
One other modality through which we aid regeneration of our musculoskeletal system is joint realignment. Although this piggybacks on self-myofascial release (SMFR) it deserves its own category. Chiropractors specialize in the neuromuscular system, treating joint pain by identifying the impaired and/or damaged areas of the nervous system and applying treatment through manipulation of the skeletal system. No I am not telling you to go out and get your neck realigned immediately, this is merely an example. Many times, through chronic adaptation to the positions we put our body, our bones will shift into different positions. This changes the way we walk, run, jump, skip, throw, etc. That hip pain while squatting might be the femur too far out of the hip joint. Your humerus could be rotated a degree too far internally for too long a period, causing serious rotator cuff damage. These are both scenarios with which our coaching professionals consider when analyzing a client’s movement patterns (not right off the bat of course). Luckily, both our muscular system and our skeletal system can be worked on with nothing other than cheap tools, proper instruction, and a small amount of time.
Once again, there are four categories of regeneration and recovery: food, sleep, musculoskeletal, and specialty. Here at Accelerated Fitness we consult with our clients on a daily basis with the first two and directly influence the third in our facilities. In Part two of this article we will review the implementation of these modalities in the third category and how our coaches and trainers at Accelerated Fitness keep you healthy and functional!