If you drive a car you know it needs to be regularly maintained for it to get you where you need to go. Changing the oil, tires and brake pads are part of owning a vehicle. Everyone accepts that routine maintenance is essential and a regularly tuned car can last indefinitely.
I find it curious that this same principle is often lost in regards to our own bodies.
Cars are crude pieces of machinery compared to the complexity of the human body. Why do people assume that you don’t need routine maintenance for your body?
Let’s identify the philosophy and correct attitude needed to live an active and healthy lifestyle. You should move well and feel good doing it!
Our bodies are designed to move in a myriad of ways for very long time periods. Genetically, humans are made to move about 16 hours a day. Unfortunately in modern society, our bodies don’t move half as much as they should. Many of us spend long periods of time in compromised positions.'
Working at a desk, driving your car, and sitting on your couch for hours and hours a day wreaks havoc on your joints and soft tissues. The deterioration leads to poor physical performance and a much greater chance of injury.
The even greater danger of such extended periods in compromised positions is that the resulting acute and chronic pain massively drains your physical and mental wellness. Being in pain sucks! Nagging pain affects your mood, productivity at work and even your personal relationships.
It is your responsibility to undo the damage from today’s modern lifestyle through daily practice.
If you want to move well and live a long and active life, you need to take care of your body.
Here’s what to do for Week 5 of your 12-week journey:
1. Continue with the tasks from Weeks 1 and 4.
2. Start doing at least 30 minutes of intentional regenerative work over the course of the week. By “regenerative” self-maintenance work I’m referring to self-massage release work using tools like foam rollers and orb balls and active stretching. A good rule of thumb to apply is to do a minimum of 10 minutes of regenerative work for every hour of training, which you can easily accomplish by staying after class when your muscle and connective tissue is most responsive to massage. An even more important self-maintenance rule of thumb is to do 10 minutes of regenerative work for every 6 hours you spend in a static position throughout the day, like sitting at a desk. Those long periods of time in static positions are far more detrimental to your body than any reasonable movement training practice.
- Do it at night as part of your wind down routine while you watch TV, hangout or have family time.
- Do it first thing in the morning as part of your morning routine to wake your body up by improving circulation and set a positive tone for your day.
- Show up early or stay late after class.
Two of the best release tools ever!
If you really want to get into those muscles (and you have a high pain tolerance) this mobility tool is right up your alley: MobilityWOD Supernova 2.0
Here are some deeper insights on Self Maintenance from Brian Zerega, 34° North’s resident bodywork master:
“Everyday our bodies and minds are bombarded by stress chemicals, brought on by practically every situation we find ourselves in. The effects of this stress can be directly experienced by the pain and tension we carry in our body. Aside from this we have reduced our near limitless potential of movement to a few key postures, making us rigid and therefore less flexible when it comes to dealing with stress or anything else.
This is what makes self-massage, or body maintenance such a powerful tool in our inventory. Not only can you dial down your day to day stress by targeting some of your key tension areas, but even deep seated emotional holding can be accessed with some focused attention from you. A few minutes daily can make a big difference. Why get a poor night of sleep in discomfort when you could melt into a blissful rest with only a small amount of effort on your behalf? There's no good reason why.
Get a lacrosse ball or an Orb. I wouldn’t put any stock in a foam roller. My elbows and thumbs are my most useful tools in massage and a foam roller doesn’t resemble either of them. As well, it’s important to be able to relax into what you are doing, performing some kind of balancing act on a foam roller is counter intuitive to this.
Focus attention - If you’re not going to be rolling around for a half an hour, then choose a very narrow focus, for instance your right quadriceps (always a great choice). Work this area until you are compelled to take a breather, then you may move on. Rolling out the entire body in 5 minutes is pretty pointless. That said once you have treated an area to a degree you feel is sufficient, notice how it feels different, and how you feel about it. Is it easier to move? Is your range of motion greater etc.?
Move slowly - The slower you go the deeper you go, it’s as simple as that, it’s the greatest thing any bodyworker could know. Start your rolling slow, back and forth across tissues until you can differentiate knots, or taut bands, Once you’ve found a spot that feels relevant to you, meaning it feels moderately to extremely uncomfortable, then you're in the right neighborhood.
Slow down further now, sink deeper, and pass through or become completely still on this location by relaxing your body and....
Breathe - Breathing is essential to the process of releasing anything and everything, whether it be CO2, digestive wastes or in this case physical and emotional stress. Endeavor to bring the breath all the way down to your pubic bone at the base of your pelvis. This will help tremendously with releasing tension in that area as well as the lower back. Also explore filling the rib cage up and expanding it like an accordion. This practice alone will help free a lot of the tension and restrictions in your thorax. Expand the rib cage both laterally (to the sides) and posteriorly (to the back).
Much of the tension we feel I believe to be restrictions to our breathing mechanism, the tighter the straight jacket around our lungs, the harder it is to relax, and the more stressed we become in any situation. When treating an area on the body focus intention on breathing right into the spot you're targeting. Imagine you’re pressing against your massage implement from the inside with the expansion of air.
Get vocal - Sometimes bodywork can seem downright torturous*, and if it is then there's no shame in letting out a howl. In fact years of experience has led me to the conclusion that, sounding, toning, moaning, and grunting are absolutely essential to the release of stress and tension.
Dogs bark, babies cry, lions roar, and civilized humans well, we talk in a very refined and intellectual manner discarding all remnants of our once primal utterances. This is the time to reconnect to emotional expression unfiltered through culturally acceptable communication protocols. In other words, LET IT OUT!
My recommendation is to breathe completely in, and on the exhale let out an ahhhhh sound with a relaxed and heavy jaw. Let the feeling of the work create the sound for you..... Essentially you are creating a sigh sound, and simply by giving yourself over to this one time, you will instantly realize the benefit of this practice and out of sheer enjoyment will continue it.
*Don’t feel as though you need to be in excruciating pain to make this work effective. Though if you haven't found any spots that make you want to melt into a puddle on the floor then I would say you haven’t had the “ah ha” moment yet in your self bodywork practice. Keep in mind that this is a practice, one with limitless benefits to you. As you explore your body’s physical resistances and limitations you may indeed gain insights into other aspects of your being that you had not yet conceived.”
So there you have it! Our bodies were designed to move beautifully, be resilient, have full freedom of movement and perform whatever task we command. Care for your body to keep it happy, pain free and ready for the next training session.