The Desire to Speed Towards Health and Fitness
Many of us lead busy lives and run on caffeine and adrenaline. We wish to lose weight, get toned, acquire strength, improve balance, be pain-free and get limber as fast as possible. This desire for instant gratification is especially true when we have been sedentary or recovering from an illness and surgery, because we wish to resume our regular lives and activities. Yet this urgency to get fit can backfire and causes delays. Ironically, when we slow down we actually accelerate the process, because of the way our bodies are built.
Some Parts of Our Body Attain Optimal More Slowly Than Others
Sometimes we are so used to living in stress we aren’t even aware of it. Yet stress and anxiety compromises our immune system and diverts our capacity from repairing and building. The body essentially has to put out fires instead of doing normal maintenance work. Also, different parts of our body recover and attain their optimal at different rates. Our muscles are well supplied with blood capillaries so they can heal and strengthen quickly. Our connective tissues, on the other hand, have different compositions and often require longer to gain/regain optimal.
Moving Too Fast Can Tear Stiff Fascia
Note that fascia, the connective tissues that run through our body to attach, separate, enclose, and stabilize our organs and muscles, isn’t included in this table. Many in the medical community are still catching up with it. Generally it takes six months to replace and regenerate half of our body’s fascia. This can be the reason why we feel frustrated with our fitness progress, whether we are trying to improve our mobility, flexibility, or strength - fascia plays a role in each of these aspects.
Healthy fascia is moist and pliable. When we move, our muscle fibers slide and slip along fascia planes, allowing smooth motions to occur. Fascia dries up from a lack of movement, whether it is due to a sedentary lifestyle or from an injury or surgery that leads to inactivity. This is why we feel stiff after sitting for a while or when we wake up in the morning. Dry fascia prevents muscle fibers from gliding and therefore inhibits movements, which therefore reduces our range of motion, as well as our flexibility and strength. Iin order to move well and get in shape, therefore, we need to first loosen tight fascia.
Since tight fascia takes longer to regain optimal than muscles do, we need to be patient and slow down - literally - in order to accelerate muscle toning. This is because loosening tight fascia requires a slower movement speed compared to training muscles. Moving or stretching too fast only tears the stiff tissue rather than loosens it. We are creating more fire for the body to put out rather than building anything! This is why for those of us who have had surgeries, who have been sedentary, or who have been training in a way that didn’t condition our fascia, we need to take it easy. Loosening (up) is a prerequisite for other goals.
The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Many of us consider dogs as our best friends because they respond to and follow our commands. Yet our bodies are more similar to cats, who, unlike dogs, are not “obligate social” creatures. Cats have their own internal social clock and only respond when it suits them. Like cats, our bodies have built-in mechanisms such as reflexes to protect us from harm, whether we like them or not. Our myotactic reflex (or stretch reflex), for example, causes our muscles to contract in order to stop us from over stretching. Our tissues and joints have their own time tables to repair and build that do not align with our work and social calendars.
If we try to approach or snuggle with a cat before she is ready, she will run away or hiss. When we relax a little, stay friendly and be patient, the cat eventually comes to us. In the same way, when we defy our bodies’ timetables we will only cause them to rebel or create damage. The human body is complex and there is still a lot that we do not understand. What we do know is that by co-opting it rather than commanding it, we can speed up our fitness progress.