Where everything starts…
I believe that everything in life is about polarity (Yin and Yang). As a former professional athlete, I used to think that the only way to improve is to push myself to the limit in every session. And I still believe in it…but now I am a little bit smarter. 🙂 I have learnt that to be able to train hard, you need a healthy and relaxed body in perfect condition.
“If you want to tense your muscle, first you need to be able to release it!”
So, let’s see how can you maximise the efficiency of your daily activities and your training, by taking care of the regeneration process.
I am sure that you are aware of the recommendation of sleeping 7-8 hours a day. And I also know your next sentence: I wish. 🙂 Most of us live a very stressful life with early mornings, commuting problems, extra workload, family issues, relationship challenges plus deciding what to eat, how to train, when to socialize and so on. And finally when you manage to get to the bed you are just rolling around for long, long minutes or you may fall asleep, but you wake up tired in the morning.
You may have already heard about the Circadian rhythm that drives your sleeping-awaking cycle. It is affected by a nucleus in the hypothalamus, called suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
It is really important to know that the SCN that drives your sleeping cycle reacts to the change of darkness/lightness, temperature and electromagnetic radiation.
How to have a good night sleep?
- First of all, you need total darkness.
- You need a cooler temperature in the bedroom than your body experienced during the day.
- Switch off all electronic devices in the bedroom, especially equipment with WiFi.
- Try to go to bed before midnight, as early as possible.
2. Electromagnetic radiation
It is a relatively new field, and more research is still needed, but it connects very closely to the sleeping topic.
3. Before training
To get the most out of your training, you need to prepare your body for it. Doing a general warm up (where you mobilise your joints) and a special warm up (when you are awakening the movement patterns) are essential. But there is more you can do to optimise your session. I am sure you have seen a foam roller (green, orange or black tube) in your gym, and you have also heard about the fascia. However, you may not know how to, and why to release it.
Imagine a spider web that connects everything around you. Our fascia system is the same. It is a very complex and living system. Anything you do with your body, your fascia system will react to it. So, if you sit 8 hours in front of the computer, your fascia system will get tight, and a couple of years later it will keep you in the same position. Typical example: stiff shoulder, rounded back, head leans forward.
An injury could affect this system as well. Right after the unfortunate moment, your fascia system is getting tight around the injured area, protecting it from sudden and too wide movements. The problem is, it stays in this contracted state if you don’t release it.
Also, the fascia system can get tight if you don’t have enough fluid in your body. And if it is tight in one area, it will pull everything tighter in the whole body (because it is a system, and it is directly connected from your toes to your neck). So, it is really important to keep your fascia system loose and relaxed.
How to release the fascia system?
Before training, the easiest way is to use a foam roller. First try to find the sensitive area of the muscle by rolling on the foam gently. Once you found it, try to stay on the point and put pressure on it (on a 0 to 10 scale, it should be around 7). After approximately 20 seconds, try to do small rolling movement and later a bit larger. Imagine that you want to massage that tight point out. The whole process is around one minute, but as you see, just rolling up and down like most people do is not enough.
A little bit more sophisticated method, is to tape two tennis balls together (especially if you want to work on the sole of your feet). It will allow you to be much more specific but still gentle. There is plenty of equipment available for “self myofascial release” but please keep in mind that you shouldn’t damage your body with too hard equipment or too much pressure. So, if you want to use a golf ball for releasing your fascia system, make sure you know exactly what you do.
There is one more very important thing that you should do before your training. Visualising is a technique that every professional athlete practices, and it is not a secret. However, in fitness for some reason people underestimate the importance of the power of the mind.
Before your training session, you need to prepare not just your body, but your mind as well.
The easiest way to do that is by spending two minutes in silence before your activities. Get a comfortable sitting position, take some deep breaths to your stomach, and try to focus on the exercises you are about to do. In your mind go through the movements, remind yourself of the key points, and try to forget about your daily problems. Believe me, your training will be much more effective, and you will feel very good after it.
If you are worried that you look silly, simply just self massage the sole of your feet in this two minutes.
4. During class
Your main task during any training session should be to focus on the rhythm of your breathing. The perfect timing will make your whole workout much more effective. For example, you will be able to lift heavier weights, you will be able to do more repetitions from an exercise, and you will regenerate much faster. The general rule is:
“Inhale to your nose and mouth, exhale powerfully through your mouth.”
On the other hand, the correct breathing technique gives you not just extra energy, but safety as well. When you inhale, you are creating tension in your body, so it will help you to keep your position stable. If you exhale powerfully, it will create extra muscle contraction (crucial when you do the standing up phase of the squat). However, during the stretch you need to exhale gently, because we want to release the body (including fascia-, nervous-, and muscle system).
“As our body adjusts breathing to a given situation, it is also possible to support given actions by the use of different breathing techniques in favour of a desired goal. Strengthening exercises require different breathing techniques than relaxing exercises. Exercises which require taking deeper breath must be supported by breathing differently than those exercises that are executed dynamically and require a lot of power.” – deepWORK® Manual
Breathing examples for the 6 basic movements:
|SQUAT||lowering the body||standing up|
|LUNGE||lowering the body||straightening the leg|
|PUSH||lowering your body/weight||extending your arms|
|PULL||the start of the movement||extending your arms|
|TWIST||the beginning of the movement||when you are twisting|
|BENDING||standing up||bending over|
There is another very important thing that you should consider if we are talking about regeneration during a training session.
Don’t sit down!
If you want to quickly get your energy back between the sets or exercises, keep moving, just gently. Shake your arms out, walk a little bit up and down, and try to slow your breath down…relax! It will help to your heart to get rid of the waste products quicker and to recover your oxygen circulation.
5. After training
First of all, I would like to highlight that stretching before the session is not useful at all. Let’s keep it simple. If you send the sign to your nervous system to release, don’t expect maximum muscle contraction straight after.
However, after session stretching can be a good idea. The only thing you need to consider:
Are your muscles exhausted, shaking and in maximum tension? If yes, you shouldn’t do the regular “hold it for 15-30 seconds” stretches. Why?
Simply because you don’t want to tear anything…
After a hard session you should just ease up your muscles gently, to start the regeneration process.
After this, or after a lighter session you can do your “regular” stretching routine. But please note, we don’t stretch to avoid muscles getting shorter. Every muscle has an origin and an insertion, you can’t make them shorter.
We stretch to start the regeneration process after the training, release the fascia system and to gain more mobility in certain joints.
- Sleep in total darkness.
- Don’t use any electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed, and try to switch off the WiFi (at least on your phone).
- Do myofascial releasing before your session, plus visualise the exercises beforehand.
- During the class check your breathing…don’t stress.
- Always do a gentle ease up routine after your training session.
+1. If you are a professional athlete with at least 10 sessions/week, you might find useful the use of different cooling methods after a heavy session.