Sunday, April 29, 2012

"What's that you say, body-of-mine? Moderation?"

The other day I took a 3-hour master class with yoga teacher Bryan Kest.  It was a great experience which helped me to reframe a little bit of my perspective on whole-being wellness.  I wouldn't say that anything about my perspective really changed, but the way he presented ideas and philosophies helped to grow my vocabulary for this kind of stuff.  It also made me think that this philosophy informs the self care I discuss here and is tremendously important to it, yet I don't think that I address directly enough all the time.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Self care & injury recovery

I have been noticing a number of people around me lately who have some acute minor injuries, or pains.  Some of these are people I am in the gym with, and some are clients, several are both.  Despite knowing what I need to do on a daily basis to take care of my soft tissues, and to help prevent injuries, I have a hard time following through on these things.  So this is a selfish post, as much as anything.  I know that I need to come up with a strategy for self care, and I hope that by publishing it here, I will hold myself to it a bit better.  Naturally, I wouldn't post it if it wasn't also a template you can apply to yourselves.

First, the list of things that I consider integral to my own self care, and the primary purpose of each:

Stretching - To promote a healthier, longer resting contraction of muscles...effects of which are plentiful.
Foam rolling/self myofascial release - To promote release of trigger points and fascial restrictions which may be more persistant that stretching can handle, preventing healthy resting length, and can also inhibit joint mobility.
Self Massage - Yet another strategy to release persistent holding patterns in muslces.
Yoga - Active stretching that utilizes neurological principles of reciprocal inhibition to enhance the effectiveness of the stretching, while gently strengthening opposing muscles.
Epsom salt baths - The Magnesium Sulfate in epsom salts are a gentle muscle relaxant. Relaxed muscles can find a healthier resting length more easily, and will allow better circulation.
Icing - Icing will knock down inflammation in an injured area.  The excess inflammation in an injured area can jam up effective circulation (think of a traffic jam).  By clearing the inflammation, we allow better waste removal and nutrient delivery.

Some of these things should be done on a daily basis, and some are more "as-needed."

On a daily basis, we should all be stretching...preferably a couple times per day, and definitely after a workout!  I do better with this one than most others, at least after a workout.  I plan to stick around for 15-30 minutes after my workout to cool down, and then the stretch.  Throughout the day, we should all be stretching the muscles we know are chronically shortened.

Foam rolling is so easy and so effective.  It's not always comfortable, but it gets the job done.  If you don't have a foam roller, get one!  If you don't have a lacrosse ball (for the smaller muscles), get one!  If you need to know how to use a foam roller, there are plenty of tutorial videos on YouTube.  I may add one, soon, too.

Yoga, I think I explained why yoga works above.  Ideally, I would do yoga twice/week, as an active recovery, apart from my other workouts.

Baths are not just a froo-froo luxury!  Rephrase: Make time to take a weekly bath, as a matter of self care.  The heat, moisture and magnesium sulfate all will help to relax the muscles and its neurology, making post-bath the perfect time for some of your daily stretching, or a brief yoga sequence!

Icing is something I do on a regular basis for my arms, based on my profession.  Icing has the mechanical effects noted above, and is great for injuries.  But icing also has an effect on the neurology in the muscles and can help to reduce sensation, thereby reducing pain, and helping to break the pain-spasm-pain cycle you might be experiencing.  Don't ice for more than 8 minutes, or so, and definitely stop when the iced area is  numb.

If you want help putting together a specific self-care regimen for your lifestyle, I am always happy to help.  If you feel like you need additional help getting to a trouble area or helping an injured area release, we can set up a session to do that - even just a short one that won't require too much time in your schedule.  Now go get up from your desk and stretch, starting with opening up the chest!