What is fascia:
Fascia is the body’s connective tissue. It is head-to-toe, inside-out interwoven system of fibrous connective tissue found throughout the whole body. Your fascia provides a framework that helps support and protect individual muscle groups, organs, and the entire body as a unit. It is made up of densely packed collagen protein fibers. Healthy fascia is so important for runners because of how interconnected it is to our entire system.
Popular description of fascia: It’s like a spider web in the entire body, it’s basically muscles, it’s like white stringy gook on our muscles. When fascia is healthy it is able to slide, glide, twist and bend pain-free.
- Fascia connects all connective tissues
- Fascia holds together the entire body
- Fascia needs to be healthy to be flexible and supple, otherwise it is sticky, clumpy, tight and flakey, your muscles and body feel stiff and tight, it forms restrictions, adhesions and distortions (muscle knots)
What causes unhealthy fascia:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Bad posture
- Overusing or over-training your muscles causing injuries
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Poor sleep quality
Benefits of healthy fascia:
- Better body symmetry and alignment
- Increased blood flow, which helps with faster recovery
- Scar tissue breakdown
- Reduced risk of injury
- Less pain and soreness
- Improved sports performance and endurance
Treating your fascia can take a while, but once you start taking care of it you will see instant relief. It will still take some time to switch your fascia from unhealthy to healthy. Healthy fascia is a good feeling, you start to feel more open, able to move in different range of motions and feeling more flexible.
How to test your fascia:
Pinch and Poke Test- Choose any part of your body, try to pinch together your skin using your thumb and forefinger. Pinching will let you feel how “fascia bound” that area under your skin is. You should be able to pinch your skin easily, and without pain, if not, you have unhealthy fascia in that area.
How to improve fascia health:
- Stretch for 10 minutes every day– Stretching elongates your muscles and help release the tension in your muscles, which is a crucial element to keep our fascia healthy. Hold stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Work on your mobility– Mobility is the ability to move well. Bad mobility causes lack of agility, flexibility and strength. Mobility exercises increases to fascia’s health. Include some mobility and joint exercises in your weekly training routine. You can even have access to fascia yoga sessions.
- Foam roll– Roll out your tight spots. Foam rolling is a great way to check in with your body to find where exactly your fascia is tight and holding tension in your muscles. When you hit the trigger point with the foam roller, hold it for 30-60 seconds as you will slowly feel the release. After a few foam rolling sessions, you will restore your fascia.
- Take a hot bath, or use a sauna– Fascia loves both internal and external heat because it increases the circulation and puts the fascia in more pliable and receptive state. After a hot bath, you can do a very efficient stretching session.
- Cold compress– If you have a bit of inflammation, use a cold compress for 10 minutes, a couple of times a day, until the inflammation goes down.
- Keep hydrated– Fascia needs to stay well hydrated. If you’re hydrated, your fascia will feel more like jelly. If you’re dehydrated, it will be more crusty and flakey. Hydration is super important to look after all our muscles and fascia.
- Do cardio exercises– You want to keep moving to increase the blood flow to the muscles. When runners are dealing with some injuries, once they are allowed, doing some cross-training cardio, like swimming, cycling or rowing will help increase the blood flow. Cardio exercises support the symmetry in the body, which also helps with the health of your fascia.
- See a physiotherapist– If you feel chronical stiffness and soreness or have a muscle injury that won’t heal, get some treatments from a physiotherapist, fascia is so interconnected, one area can affect many others.
Signs of unhealthy fascia:
- Hunched posture
- Poor body-symmetry (one hip higher than the other or one shoulder higher than the other)
- Poor mobility
- Lack of flexibility and strength
- Feelings of discomfort
- Sleep quality
Foods to include
The following foods are rich in the nutrients required for healthy connective tissue. Be sure to include them in your diet and feel the difference:
- Bone broths (1-4 cups / day)
- Good quality protein from good quality (ideally organic grass fed and grass finished) meats and eggs
- Good quality seafood (mussels, fish, oysters, sardines etc)
- Lots of veggies
- Unpasteurised, raw fermented veggies
- Kombucha (a fermented tea that makes the glucuronic detox pathway more effective)
- Lots of berries
- Healthy fats (fish, grass fed beef, extra virgin cold pressed flax oil/ flax seed meal, eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil.
- Plenty of clean drinking water
Healthy fascia= Healthy muscles, overall body well-being and running performance!