Back when I was still at my little office on Regency Court I had this idea of one day opening a movement center and offering classes and workshops (never mind the fact that I wasn’t qualified/certified to teach anything). I’ve always joked that I’m a trendsetter ahead of my time; I was stretching people before it was fashionable. I was also eating a paleo diet when everyone would ask “oh, it’s like Atkins?” No. No it’s not. Now I’m looking at getting a jump start on mobility classes, and I am so excited to share them with all of you!
What is mobility to you? Is it getting deeper in your overhead squat at Crossfit? Recovering from the half marathon that you did last weekend quicker than you did your last one? Improving your golf swing? Not limping when you get out of bed in the morning because your plantar fasciitis is flaring up? Moving better in your day to day life?
Mobility. Mobility. Mobility!
To me, it’s all of those things, and that is why I decided on getting certified as a LifeStretch® teacher.
Confession: I got certified as a LifeStretch instructor originally it was more for my own self care and recovery, but I then proceeded to do absolutely nothing with it. NOTHING. I don’t know why, I just wasn’t making the time for it, which is so silly because I am constantly preaching to all of my clients about how good you’ll feel after it. I was showing them moves to do but wasn’t doing them on my own. Until I taught a class at Wisconsin Athletic Club (WAC) and everyone loved it! They came in expecting a yoga class, they had these concerned looks on their faces when I told them we weren’t doing yoga, but after they had a look of pure bliss because they felt so great (and so did I!). LifeStretch comes from the same people who created Fascial Stretch Therapy (and if you’ve had an FST session from me you know how good it feels). Take a look at a segment from the Core 4 on the Floor series:
Can strengthening exercises help to eliminate pain?
Short and annoying answer is...yes...and no...maybe. Pain cannot typically be reduced to something as simple as weakness of a muscle. Not everyone with back pain has a weak core and not everyone with knee pain has weak hips. Does performing some isolated strengthening exercises for these muscles work for some people? Yes, but if not investigated more, they could actually just be hiding a bigger issue that could become more serious or chronic in nature. Those muscles may be under performing, but perhaps that's because we are asking to much of them.
A person with low back pain who is afraid to lift anything may not have a weak core, but rather needs to learn to not brace and hold their breath during movement. Some people need practice relaxing their core and letting their bodies function as they were designed.
A runner that has hip pain starting at 9 miles doesn't need to strengthen his hips so that they can just tolerate more of a pounding. Perhaps there is something else we can change to allow better impact absorption though the legs and spine to lessen the burden the hips have to manage.
So in the end the question is...do we want our bodies to be stronger so we can tolerate more stress, or do we want our bodies to be more efficient and not have to worry so much about our body breaking down? Strength training isn't a bad thing at all. It can be highly beneficial for health and performance, but as a physical therapist, it's my job to make sure a client isn't trying to use strength as a compensation when we should really be working on something else.
Dan Schumann DPT
When people think of stretching, they think of stretching their muscles only. But just as important, if not more so, than stretching the muscles is stretching the often overlooked fascia that surrounds the muscle. Fascia is an innervated network of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, organ structures, and vertebrae. Like muscles, it is important for fascia to stay hydrated as it can become stiff which can then manifest in the form of inflammatory injuries all over the body. Research has shown that fascia contains even more sensory receptors than muscles making it all the more important that self-care is shown for this network.
Unfortunately, the everyday activities we engage in such as walking and working at a computer can lead to misalignment, adhesion formation and consequently, a stiffening of the connective tissue network. Compounding that, flexibility is impacted by numerous other factors such as age, hormones, rigorous exercise or lack thereof, and more. Traditionally, static stretching has focused on isolating single muscles and not on functional mobility or dynamic movements and it is often not sufficient enough for the many of us who have developed compensatory movement patterns over time as our fascia have become dehydrated or tense in certain areas of our bodies.
The concept of stretching out the myofascia, the specific term for fascia surrounding the muscles, more commonly known as fascial stretch therapy (FST) has become increasingly popular among professional athletes over the past few years as a way for them to improve their mobility and hence, their overall performance. It is now slowly creeping its way into the mainstream of physical therapy and yoga clinics across the country as the recognition of the critical importance of supple fascia in whole body alignment grows. Finding a therapist or practitioner certified in FST can be challenging due to the lack of those with the proper training or expertise in this domain and foam rollers and soft massage balls have been primary mechanisms for at-home versions of loosening up myofascia, though they do not come with guides. However, that tide is turning nationwide and also here in Waukesha County as Momentum adds LifeStretch classes, a form of self-traction FST designed by the Stretch to Win Institute based in Tempe, AZ, to its portfolio.
‘LifeStretch was developed so clients could do some of the FST to themselves without assistance from a therapist,’ stated Lisa McNeil, a LifeStretch certified instructor who has also been providing FST sessions as a level three medically trained specialist. ‘So instead of the therapist manually stretching a client on a table and sometimes using table straps, the client can be on the floor or just standing and use self-traction to stretch the fascia.’ McNeil has recently begun offering 30-minute LifeStretch classes every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. and every Saturday at 8:00 a.m.at Revolution Fitness in Pewaukee.
McNeil, who completed certification on site at the Stretch to Win Institute recently, says that after practicing LifeStretch she feels empowered as she deals with her own pain and injury issues stemming from a car accident January 2016. After two years of movement restriction and pain, I can now heal my body like I have been doing for my clients all these years,’ she added.
Because the choreography increases functional mobility, LifeStretch compliments regular yoga and Pilates practice. And much like Pilates, focusing on breath is an important component of LifeStretch. McNeil explained that participants start the workshop with a postural assessment and then move into a breathing assessment followed by a lesson on correct breathing. There are no ‘perfect poses’ and there is a focus on overall balance and movement of the myofascial system as opposed to targeting specific muscles. Self-traction is employed which means that instead of an FST therapist manually stretching someone on a table, participants learn to do this unassisted through stretching or moving, or even using the floor, an object, or wall as a means to create resistance.
According to the LifeStretch creators at the Stretch to Win Institute, ‘when traction with inhalation is followed by exhalation on the mobility-stretch sequences, range of motion increases rapidly without discomfort.’ In LifeStretch you learn how to self traction your body.
Alexandra Archibad, a client of Lisa McNeil, said that she saw the class advertisement and signed up to learn more about stretching. ‘I noticed that after the LifeStretch class my body felt more flexible and my joints felt like they received some oil,’ she said.
‘One thing I’ve learned is that everybody has “issues in their tissues”. It was surprising to learn that I was extremely hyper-mobile in some stretches and extremely hypo-mobile in others. Everybody needs work with flexibility or strength, or both …somewhere,’ added McNeil.
There are at least a few good reasons I can think of to change your exercise with the seasons.
1) It prevents us from developing overuse injuries and allows our bodies to recover. Even if you're not an athlete, your body will thank you for changing things up, but make sure you go into the change slowly as your body adjusts.
2) It makes for a better, more capable body. You don't want to get good at just one thing, you should want to be proficient in various different activities and aspects of fitness. This will make you more adaptable to whatever life throws at you.
3) It's just more interesting to learn and challenge yourself. Nobody likes getting bored and changing your routine makes sure you are staying mentally checked-in during your workouts.
4) Working on one aspect of your fitness can make other aspects better. Just like losing weight can make you a faster runner, getting stronger and more flexible can help nearly any activity that you do. Think about winter as your off season. What do you need to get done to hit the ground running when the warm weather comes back?
One of the best things I've ever done for my running is to stop running. Despite running a marathon in under 3 hours back in 2013, my right ankle was always really stiff and always bothered my when I ran. After I ran Boston in 2014, I took about 2 full years off of running and started focusing on body weight exercises and movement I learned from attending Anatomy in Motion and Animal Flow workshops. These two disciplines have made me the strongest and most flexible I've been in my life. Much to my delight, when I went back to running this summer, my right ankle stays much looser and I am able to put it some really good paced runs despite my lack of running. So 2 years is longer than one winter, but the principle still applies.
So now that the weather has changed, don't fight to try to keep things the same. Embracing and shifitng with with weather can be a much healthier decision. You don't have to go cold turkey and you can still do some of you summer activities, but you should cut back quite a bit and replace it with something else. Start taking a group fitness class, train with weights (staying off the machines), start stretching more, walk/hike outside instead of running (walking is good all year round, but it is best done outdoors), learn to cross country ski or snow shoe. This winter, I plan on replacing most of my running with cross country skiing (if we get the snow for it) and focusing back on Animal Flow and Anatomy in Motion stretches.
I do realize in writing this that there are a few die hards that don't want to give up routines (typically a runner or a cyclist) and to them I say this. If what you are doing now helps your body feel good, keep doing it. However, if you have a few problems, aches, and pains, please make this into an opportunity to help yourself.
If you are worried about starting something new or outside your comfort zone, find a good physical therapist that can help you navigate through all your questions and address any concerns either of you may have.
A little from Dr. Dan, a little from Lisa but always a lot of good stuff!