Part 2: Post Event Recovery Using Fascial Stretch Therapy
It’s 730am and it’s already hot and humid In Vancouver BC and today, is the big day! It’s Sunday June 28th and my day starts on the start line of the Scotiabank Half Marathon.
Starting out slow and steady the first half of the racecourse is a gradual uphill. Considering the heat I decided to maintain just below my race pace to ensure I didn’t start out too quickly and waste energy or dehydrate myself early into the race. As I embarked on the end of the climb, we started the gradual descent that would last for the next 4km. As I approached the 10km mark I realized that my body felt different – it felt light and “something” I couldn’t put my finger on. I scanned by body the usual suspects… and pondered for a moment … I felt “un-injured.” That is the best way I can describe it.
For the last several months, my peak training runs has been plagued with ankle compression, tight shins, and an impinged left meniscus with radiating ITB discomfort. Moving on down the rabbit hole, the left lower back causes me daily pain from adhesions scar tissue, and let’s not forget about an anterior tilt in my pelvis on the right side. On a pain scale it’s low day to day, but in training its moderate enough to place my attempts at a personal best at a stand still for nearly a year.
For the first time since last November, my body felt light and I didn’t feel the normal compression of my ankles or the tension, the soreness in my knee or the pain of the lower back. As I closed in on the 15km mark, I realized my tissues felt great. Crossing the finish line at 2:13:19 I hadn’t achieved a personal best, but with a temperature of 31 degrees and limited muscular discomfort it was a big win!
The only change I had made to my training had been the integration of FST into my recovery days post long run for the past several months.
So why don’t more athletes’ consider fascia in performance and recovery programs?
This is a common question I am asked, and the bold answer is – because not many people know that much about it. Fascia is complex and our understanding of it is still in its infancy – and, quite frankly, it can be hard to study. It’s so expansive and intertwined it resists the medical standard of being cut up, divided up and named for textbook illustrations. Furthermore, its function and form is even more complex, yet it’s subtler than that of the other systems in our body.
For the majority of medical lineage it’s been assumed that bones were our frame, muscles the motor, and fascia just packaging. Well this is wrong. Our bones are meant to float, and it’s our fascia that holds us together and provides the super highway for neurotransmission, hydration and communication.
Recover, Restore, Realign:
As previously mentioned FST places a high priority on the assessment of each client and even though it feels predominately tissue based during the hands on treatment; each FST session includes joint and tissue mobilization, as well as integration of the nervous system and dynamic corrective movement.
Half and full marathon training places a great deal of repetitive stress on our tissues and joints beyond their capacity to recover naturally and thus placing a high degree on both wear and tear on the muscles and fascia system that inevitably cause it distress. Therefore, restoring this finite framework is crucial.
I had an opportunity to briefly connect with Chris Fredrick, co founder of the Stretch To Win Institute, who offered me a deeper insight into the power FST can have; on not only an athlete’s performance, but why the fascia system is by far one of, if not THE most important system to consider in both training and recovery.
“Some of the criteria essential for fascial fitness and training aim at:
- Elastic recoil
- Undulating/rhythmic movement
- Proprioceptive refinement
- Dynamic stretching
Chris goes on to say that “All of this is accomplished with FST, so FST satisfies criteria for training fascia according to top researchers.” He also went on to note that in my particular case with an impinged meniscus; “FST often helps relieve impingement after using the closed chain movements to assess. This is because it addresses spiral & lateral lines.”
Post Event Re Cap:
The day after the half marathon, Matt Keen, assessed my overall biomechanics post event. As you can see from the above figure of the before session and after session there is an immense change in my posture. I think these photos can speak for themselves. You can see a taller standing posture, my hips look more aligned, and the shoulder hike is significantly reduced. Prior to this session I had also spent an hour rolling and stretching.
In conclusion, receptive motions, compression, sticky adhesions, contractures and stiffness form between fascial surfaces that aren’t regularly moved, or moved often that cause wear and tear and over time these adhesions get strong enough to inhibit range of motion, and cause possible injury.
If you are plagued by nagging injuries that you can’t seem to self manage, perhaps invest in sourcing out a professional who specializes in fascia stretch therapy and corrective movement. It could be the missing piece of the puzzle to unleashing your greatest movement potential.
Chris Fredrick, co founder of Stretch To Win Institute and Fascial Stretch Therapy
Matt Keen, owner and FST therapist at Keensense Personal Training