Why We Stretch

We stretch because it helps us feel better. While we may not do it often enough,  we all know the feeling of a good stretch in the morning when we get up before we start moving. We reach, twist, take a good breath and maybe a yawn.  We know how good it feels to lean or bend or pull against something when our low back feels tight or a shoulder is stiff and the relief we experience. 

We stretch to move better. The right kind of stretching helps us gently and easily open space in our joints and in the connective tissue or fascia that gives our body structure and absorbs and transmits the force we need to move. When that tissue is tight or restricted we lose our range of motion and that elastic bouncey feel that allows us to move freely and easily. When it’s stretched well we feel light and loose. 

We stretch to perform better, wether it’s in training or competition for an athlete, or in the simplest activities of daily iife. Flexibility is about being able to adapt to the changing demands of our environment. Again, that means changing direction on a soccer field but it also means carrying a bag of groceries while you try to pick up a toddler. The right kind of stretching helps us respond to those moments when we have to move in unexpected ways and, also gives us the ability to move with more grace and power as we go through the day. 

If you are already making time to stretch good for you. Here is a great resource to help you make sure you’re getting the full benefits of a good routine.  Stretch To Win by Ann Frederick and Chris Frederick, they have been pioneers in the field for over 25 years.

If you don’t have a stretching practice let’s get together and help you start one. A good stretching practice is simple, pain-free and personalized. Reach out here and we’ll get started. 


Relax and Recover With Fascial Stretch Therapy™️

FST helps turn the stress switch off and bring us back home to a more relaxed place

One of the biggest benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy™️ is the powerful and effective role it can play in relaxation and recovery. Whether it’s the stiffness, soreness or heavy legs that come from working out and competing or the accumulation of tension from the physical and emotional stress of daily life that we all experience, the gentle, pain-free movements and stretch wave of FST help trigger a parasympathetic response in the body ( think “rest and relax”) that allows the body to restore and refresh itself.

We live in a world where our sympathetic ( fight, flight or freeze) nervous system in often overactive and overloaded. Being in a constant state of having to produce, deliver, measure up or just keep up leaves many of us feeing both tense an exhausted at the same time.

That stress gets “stored” in the body. It can be the physical demands of training for competition or , the exercise class we take or the 18 holes of golf we just played. But, it’s also the mental and emotional wear and tear of meeting the demands of work, family life and other daily stressses that gets lodged in the body – the tight hips, the stiff lower back, the tension in our shoulders and neck. ( we’re not meant to be walking around with our shoulders hunched up to our ears)

Some of the tightest, most sensitive, most restrictive clients I work with aren’t athletes or fitness enthusiasts at all. They are people who are experiencing the effects of always feeling “on”. FST has been such a helpful tool for restoring that state of calm that it’s not unusual for some clients to actually fall asleep on the table before our session is over.

It’s important to realize that pain is not a lifestyle and that state of calm is not an luxury or an indulgence. Relaxation and recovery are essential and make us more able, not less to rise to new challenges as they come. While every individual’s threshold is different, powering through is something we do at our own peril.

There are a variety of things that help us recover, refresh and restore ourselves; sleep, nutrition, hydration, getting outside, connecting with others. Good bodywork, like FST helps turn the stress switch off and bring us back home to a more relaxed place where we can take greater advantage of them. While FST was developed in the high performance world of Olympic and professional sports you don’t need to be an athlete to use it. It’s use has spread to health, wellness, general fitness and medical settings around the world.

Check it out here and consider giving it a try. Sometimes we don’t even know how tightly we’ve been wound until we take the time to unwind.


Focus On Recovery To Improve

There is a simple process at work in training that is the key to getting better. In their book Peak Performance authors Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg lay it out as follows: Stress + Rest = Growth.  

It doesn’t maker what the quality; strength, speed, agility, or endurance. When we challenge ourselves with a hard workout or training block and then take care of our recovery we adapt, we get better.  

Both elements of the formula are necessary if we’re going to improve. We tend to emphasize one and neglect the other. We often assume that if we aren’t seeing the improvement we want it’s because we aren’t working hard enough or long enough. So, we ramp it up, add more reps, more practices, go longer hoping it will get us closer to our goal. It rarely occurs to take care of the recovery side of the process.  

Without recovery not only do we not improve, we plateau or sometimes even get worse. Over time, under-recovery can lead to illness, injury and burnout. 

APPROACH RECOVERY LIKE TRAINING – BE INTENTIONAL  

Ask yourself what are the things you need  to take care of on a daily basis? Start building practices and habits around those. Sleep, nutrition, hydration, stretching, and mental practices like meditation all have a huge impact on how well we respond to training and how good we feel.  

Look beyond the day to day for larger patterns. Each week I have athletes fill out a weekly schedule that shows their training and competition schedule along with school, work and social commitments. Then they review it the next week and make any changes so that it reflects what actually happened. Together if we need to make adjustments we can and we can look at where recovery is or isn’t getting taken care of.  

Take inventory and get to know your body. Every day athletes fill out a paper and pencil journal to capture things like sleep and energy levels as well as what’s going on that day. It’s information for me and more importantly a chance for them to pause, assess, and over time get more in tune with themselves.  

There are a lot of ways we can tend to the recovery side of the formula. In their book Magness and Stulberg offer resources and practices that are a great place to start. Like anything else though the most important thing is to start. Pick one practice you want to work on and make it a habit. This is where coaching can help. Working with someone who understands the process and can help you find a focus and provide encouragement and learning is worth it. Once you’ve grooved in one habit move on to the next. Over time you will begin to see a difference and really take advantage of the hard work you’re putting in.   


Creating A Better Pattern


Trying to change a habit can be hard work – even when we know its not good for us or that it’s keeping us from being who we want to be or doing what we want to do. New patterns take time to establish and they often feel awkward and mechanical at the start. They just don’t feel natural.   

You can see it in something simple like running mechanics. Even small adjustments like foot placement or hand position take time to become part of us. We need to repeat them over and over again, paying attention and continuing to adjust before they take hold.  

I worked with an athlete a few years ago who resisted small changes in her form because in her words, “I don’t like it, it feels too easy.” Then one day at the end of a workout I put her on the watch and asked her to run a 40. It was her second fastest ever – even though it came at the end a fitness and conditioning session. She ran two more and they were just as fast. She started to see that maybe there was something to the new mechanics. Slowly it became her preferred pattern, the new normal.  

In his book, Job’s Body, A Handbook For Bodywork, Deane Juhan writes, “You have to behave in a reality before you can perceive in that reality.  For personal change, for pattern change, for template change it is necessary to act, to voluntarily, willfully engage in the process of self-observation and self-regulation and to stay with it over time …”  

I’m getting coached right now, working on my nutrition and eating habits. It’s slow work but it’s good. Paying attention ( in a non-judgmental way ) and making adjustments isn’t as simple or easy as it sounds. It is frustrating at times and then there are small breakthroughs.

Part of good coaching is engaging the athlete or client in a relationship and environment that helps us make those uncomfortable changes and meet the challenges slowly, at our own pace in a way that makes sense to us and makes them intrinsic. A new pattern that’s stable. Creating a space that is both challenging and safe, where we can practice doing it differently, paying attention in a non-judgmental way and keep adjusting until we create a new path that takes us closer to where we want to go.  



Finding Happy Again

 

 

“We play because we have an exuberance spirts and energy … but, we also are exuberant because we play”  Kay Redfield Jamison, Exuberance, The Passion For Life

 

What happens when we loose that exuberance of spirits and energy? What happens when something that starts as play turns into an experience that leaves us “broken” ? And, can we find our way back to a place of joy and vitality?

 

UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi showed us you can with her performance this past weekend in the Bruins’ opening meet. She scored a perfect 10 but … as Washington Post writer Allyson Chiu wrote this week, ” The most notable feature of Ohashi’s performance was the sheer joy she exuded, which starkly contrasted the revelations she made this August about her decision to step back from her Olympic dreams several years ago after the sport left her “broken”.

 

At the time she left she had been competing with a fractured back and two torn shoulders.  She shared her story in a video on The Players Tribune

Stuart Brown, M.D. Psychiatrist, Clinical Researcher and Director of the National Institute of Play offers some properties of play in his book Play, How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.

1. Apparent Purposelessness – we don’t do it for it’s practical value, we do it for it’s own sake. Some people might even think it’s a waste of time.

2. It’s voluntary – nobody’s making you do it.

3. Inherent attraction – It’s just plain  fun. It make you feel good.

4. Freedom from time – When we’re really into it we lose a sense of time.

5. Diminished consciousness of self – We stop thinking about thinking. We stop worrying about how we look. We’re just doing it.

6. Improvisational potential – We aren’t locked in to one way of doing things. We’re open to trying different approaches, messing about, making it up as we go.

7. Continuation desire – It’s fun and when we’re done we want to do it again.

When those things are lost we risk losing that wonderful “exuberance of spirits” that is our reason to play.  Watching Katelyn’s performance, number seven really stands out – it’s fun and when were done we want to do it again.  If it’s not – it might be time to pause and pay attention.


Wisdom for the Weekend

A piece of wisdom to ponder over the weekend. I share this because I know from experience it is easy to forget. From THE INNER GAME OF TENNIS. 

“But who said that I am to be measured by how well I do things? In fact, who said I should be measured at all? Who indeed? What is required to disengage oneself from this trap is a clear knowledge that the value of a human being cannot be measured by performance – or by any arbitrary measurement. Do we really think the value of a human being is measurable? It doesn’t really make sense to measure ourselves in comparison with other immeasurable beings. In fact, we are what we are; we are NOT how well we happen to perform at a given moment.”

Something to ponder.


Embracing The Struggle

As Brene Brown says, ” We are hardwired for struggle.” Yet it’s tempting to try to manage our way around it or pull back rather than embrace it, even though we know it’s the struggle and challenge that provide the stimulus for our becoming better athletes and better people.

In his book Listening Point, Sigurd Olson has a short chapter on The Paddle. He writes, ” The paddle is made of native ash from a tree that grew in a cold swamp and gathered its toughness from bitter springs and cold falls when even staying alive had been an effort… into the new paddle went those qualities of texture and spirit that develop only under stress.”

Those qualities of texture and spirit grow in us  through our efforts to respond to the difficult days of training, the  match with a tough opponent, the recovery from an injury. When we rise to meet the challenge, like that ash tree rising from the cold swamp, reaching for the light, we too gather that toughness and resilience.

It takes patience though. The new growth rarely happens overnight whether it’s physical strength or changing an attitude. As Olson writes about his paddle, ” It’s fineness of grain came from slowness of growth, some so fine it could barely be seen with the naked eye, evidence in those sections that life had been difficult.” 

So what’s the challenge you’re facing? Improving a skill; developing a physical quality; changing an attitude or a belief? Maybe it’s not even on the field. Maybe its a difficult conversation you need to have with a teammate or coach or player.

Whatever it is, embrace the struggle. Match your efforts with time to rest. That’s part of the process too. But, embrace the struggle. It’s where the transformation begins.

And, part of what you may discover is, that transformation allows you to bring even more to the people, and causes you care about.