Let’s start the ‘Lessons from Fascia Research’ with an important tip that refers to all of us – providers of ABR exercises.
Have you ever complained of the pains in the shoulders, neck or back – linking them to your ABR exercises?
If the answer is ‘Yes’ – the following information about the fascia properties is going to be of value and help you to manage your positioning more efficiently.
The issue of the ‘pains’ has been a sting in my heart for ages… This really bugged me because, on the one hand, I feel bad for being somewhat at the origin of this discomfort yet, on the other hand, it is especially disturbing since there is no legitimate intrinsic reasons for that.
Let me explain.
Most often musculoskeletal pains relate to some form of repetitive strain injury, where the micro-tearing causes inflammation that heals incompletely or with the fibrotic deterioration of tissue, that in turn puts the remaining healthy fibers into even greater exposure and so the vicious circle perpetuates towards accumulation of critical loss of healthy tissue and thus the problem becomes chronic.
However, when teaching the ABR technique – especially the 3Q – we emphasize several main points:
· Maximum relaxation, i.e. ‘switching off’ all of the unnecessary muscle groups in your hands, arms and shoulder girdle.
· Comfortable positioning – balanced position of the body with minimal challenge to the lower back etc. We emphasize the necessity of support for any suspended element of your body – be it the shoulder or the arm or the upper body.
· No pivotal movements and obviously no overstretching in the wrist, elbow or shoulder joints. Actually the very nature of the quasistatic movement implies that there is no strain on selective muscles.
· ‘No effort’ principle – since we are addressing the weakest elements in a child’s body then obviously we shouldn’t ‘work hard’. I believe it is self-explanatory – ‘hard work’ on your part implies strong resistance on a child’s part, which doesn’t make sense at all because we aim at the weak elements that cannot resist strongly by definition
Technically speaking the main challenge in mastering the ABR 3Q technique is not in ‘switching on’ the ‘right muscles’ but in ‘switching off ’ all of the unnecessary muscular “noise” and effort.
Nonetheless, even with all these explanations in place a lot of parents do complain about the pains – that’s a fact. For quite a while I maintained that these unfortunate side-effects were transitory being a part of the learning curve.
I must say that using myself as an example, I sometimes pointed out that your discomfort should be your alarm bell – warning you that you need to re-adjust positioning to a more comfortable one…
This approach is still correct for the better part, however, in the light of the new insights into the role and performance of fascia that were conveyed during the latest advanced Fascia Research Course in Ulm, Germany – I have to emphasize a number of other important considerations.
Balance between work and rest
Even if ‘work’ relates to maintaining a certain position – the balance between working and resting is absolutely critical.
This stems from the one of the manifestations of viscoelastic properties of fascia.
Dr. Robert Schleip, who conducted the
class on ‘Viscoelasticity in Fascia’ started with a very simple example: Gummy
You all know what they are and could easily relate to the example when one of them is being stretched and then released. What happens? There are 2 factors to pay attention to:
· Total length of a stretch – until certain stretch barrier the viscoelastic structure is able to get back to its original resting length; beyond that critical point – it can’t
· Time that it takes to get back to the original resting length
First consideration is obvious – if the overstretch occurs than there is damage to the fibers with all the negative effects that I just mentioned in the description of a strain injury.
However, and that is a lot more subtle, but no less important – even for the stretches that allow the eventual return to the original resting length the time factor is vastly different.
In our ‘gummy snake’ example a stretch that adds ¾ of an original length is a point where the tissue damage occurs– no matter for how long one waits, the ‘snake’ is not going to return fully to its original length.
However, there are more of the distinct ‘milestones’ in such a stretch:
Within a certain initial range – about ¼ of an initial length – the return to original state is relatively quick. But beyond this point things slow down significantly. If a return from a ¼ elongation takes few seconds then a return from 1/3 elongation is a matter of several minutes.
I hope you can see where it is going. – Exactly: it is the balance between work, i.e. exposure of fascia to loads to which it adapts by changing length, and rest – when fascia needs to return to original state to re-nourish and to be able to take loads again.
In fact one of the most famous
accounts of a critical importance of such a balance comes from Napoleonic wars
At first glance, what’s the difference between doing 90 min march and then having 30 min rest interval? – Proportion remains the same. On opposite, there could be an argument that longer 30 min rest gives more time to get some food and so on.
Obviously, those days the 45/15 proportion was purely an empirical find but now once we realize the viscoelastic nature of fascia – this becomes very clear.
With 45/15 min proportion – an average body of a soldier had an ability to get the fascia “gummy snakes” back to their resting length and able to take loads again.
And I want to remind once again – contrary to what all of us learn at school: working muscles do the moving job – muscle fibers are super-expensive and vulnerable, so the efficient bio-mechanical functions are based on maximum engagement of fascia – which has the ability to store kinetic energy elastically and then release it without any metabolic costs to the body.
But 90/30 proportion works in a different way. 90 min march might demand several hours of fascia resting length recovery.
So the lesson is: Special attention has to be paid to the individual balance between work and rest. You should divide you work in a certain position in such chunks that allow your fascia strands to bounce back to its’ resting length quickly.
(The areas of particular importance are:
· Upper back/ lower neck
· Trapezius ‘pack’ and upper arm
· Lower back)
So, looking back, I tried my best to emphasize the need for relaxed and comfortable position as well as the effortlessness in the delivery of ABR 3Q movement, however, I believe that I did not pay enough attention to this balance of work/rest and to the balance of positional shifts.
· Warm-up and cool-down before starting your ABR home program
· Avoid doing the ABR applications immediately after being in sitting or standing position for any prolonged period of time.
· Do some stretches – even for a few minutes or
· !!! Lie down for 10-15 min – on your back or on your stomach whatever feels better– before you start ‘pumping’
Ordinary housework or even sitting at the chair or on the sofa implies prolonged periods of fascial tension in a relatively static positions. As a result you often proceed to ABR exercises without having your ‘fascial spring’ in good shape. For some strange cultural reasons a lot of people, especially mothers feel some sort of a “shame” for lying down and resting during the day – if even for a few minutes. You put so much of internal pressure on yourself for spending time ‘productively’ and not staying ‘leisurely idle’ – that you get guilt stricken even at the thought of taking a short break and lie down. Even worse, even when you take a break – it’s usually sitting. Suggestion is simple:
· Take short breaks during the day for recuperation – either by lying down or by doing some active exercises like walking, stretching or bouncing on a trampoline. Even a few push ups will be beneficial.
Otherwise – and a lot of you do the exercises in the evening when a child is asleep – the challenges to your fascia that accumulated during the day just surface up when you start doing ABR for your kids.
· Please do not wait until the discomfort becomes very pronounced before changing position or giving yourself some rest or mini-movement.
That’s another very important thing to realize.
Let’s look at this diagram.
It shows the sequence of loading on through the example of the thoracolumbar fascia (lower back).
1st reaction is muscular – it is short. 2nd – longest – fascia takes the load – that’s the easiest part, meaning that you have settled into the position. 3rd – muscles of the upper regions react because fascia has undergone viscoelastic elongation. That is the phase where you start feeling discomfort, which grows and doesn’t go away. But usually what do you do? – You actually clench your teeth, tap into your will power and do it for a while more until the discomfort gets unbearable.
This is exactly the wrong strategy.
The best long-term performance will be based on giving yourself a short break somewhere in the second half of a 2nd phase. Then you are still within a quick fascia recoil range and your rest will be truly beneficial.
If you wait until the 3rd stage and worse, stay in it through sheer will power – that’s where the damage occurs.
· In practical terms – if you feel pronounced discomfort after 10 minutes of doing a certain application – do not force yourself towards 15 min. In fact the best is to time it and to give yourself a break at 7-8 min – safely before reaching the 10 min mark.
Yes, I do know the argument: “I want to do as much as possible once I am in the position.”
Obviously, you are especially likely to choose this strategy when a child cooperates or when a child is asleep. You are afraid that if you change a position, the setup might get ruined and you’ll need to spend a lot of time before re-settling into the working mode.
True, but you shouldn’t really compromise with your own health.
Sure, you ladies are amazingly dedicated mothers with a strong built-in sense of sacrifice for your child. I realize and I admire that but on a practical note you have to think long-term. The strategy of not taking care of yourself backfires for all of the Team members.
· The worse your physical condition is the less likely you are to deliver the technique well.
· The worse your physical condition is the more likely you are to procrastinate and avoid exercises until the moment when you fall in your bed from exhaustion and postpone ABR exercises until tomorrow.
· The worse your physical condition is the more stressed you are; and the more stressed you are the less likely your child is to settle into the exercise mode – because special kids are like ultra-sensitive radars. They are so much in tune with your deep subconscious that you can’t really fool them.
The segues us into the
3rd cluster. Stress.
All the physical challenges that I describes earlier are amplified by stress – and you, my friends, are under immense stress all the time. Truth is – a lot of such stress is self-induced and stems from being hyper-responsible person and from a deeply ingrained sense of guilt: “I have to pack his/her day to the hilt with useful stuff… I have to do as much exercise with him/her as possible…I have to… I have to… I have to ”. On top of all of these “I have to” you add a extra layer of self-doubt: “Am I doing right? What if I am doing it wrong?” If that wasn’t enough once you have settled into the relative calmness of ABR exercise you might get and extra wave stress clouds ranging from: “Gees, I am far behind with the dinner and the other kids will come back home soon…” to “Is this entire ABR thing right for me? Have I made best possible choice for my child?”…
All that is perfectly understandable BUT … that doesn’t make all these clouds of stress less detrimental.
And this detriment manifests itself not only emotionally but physically – kinetic absorption properties of fascia deteriorate significantly when you are under stress. Hence you are both more likely to injure it as well as get yourself exhausted through excessive muscular work.
Frankly, I do not have that much of specific advice for handling the stress in each of your particular situations, however, there are some general principles I’d like you to consider.
· Awareness. Any change to better starts with the awareness about the current situation. Being unconsciously ignorant is the worst.
· Hence – set up some internal alarms when you stress level goes up and try to build up some routines to handle it. I already mentioned it earlier but will repeat again – take small breaks during the day. Lie down, close your eyes, relax... It’s not an option – it’s a must. Otherwise you are just burning yourself.
· When we tell you that it is desirable to deliver the application in a certain area for a longer period of time (say, 20-30 min) in order to have the maximum response – take it in the context of long-term perspective. That duration is only applicable if you are capable of managing such periods with ease and not at the expense of your health.
· I find the ABR applications fun. I enjoy the variety within the 3Q – for me each and every movement is different in terms of compressibility, area of engagement, volumetric bounce-back; neutral buoyancy level etc… That’s why I always encouraged you not to get distracted and avoid watching TV or talking on the phone etc.
However, in the light of stress management issues – I now think about a compromise. If you feel that being left without external distraction causes too much of stressful thoughts – please go ahead and use those distractions – just do not forget to re-check your placement and the movement periodically.
Let me stop right here otherwise what was intended as a short post is going to stretch for many more pages… Clearly, those same viscoelastic properties of fascia that I touched upon in respect to your own well-being and performance are of fundamental importance for any active, functional movement training program of your child.
Hint – repetitive movements a-la forced crawling or forced treadmill walking – are particularly detrimental if the proper load distribution and range is not paid attention to. Unfortunately that is never the case for those “signal senders” who do not even bother with awareness of what structures do they ask you to “send” those signals through… Ok, I’ll save it for another lesson….
Please take care of yourself. You are the most important in the life of your kids and you owe it to them to think long-term and to take care of yourself both for your own good and for theirs.
Enjoy the holidays and take a well-deserved rest.
And as usual -- I would very much appreciate the comments and your thoughts....