“Self-care is healthcare.” ~ Jill Miller
In other words, taking care of ourselves can help replace the need for so much time spent at the doctor. Sounds good right? This phrase is passionately spoken from world-class fitness therapy expert Jill Miller. And I LOVE IT because I truly believe it. Yes we need doctors, physical therapist, chiropractors, dentists, etc. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a routine that helped lessen visits to those professions? To have a routine that was created by these professions to help you take care of yourself? It’s already there for dentists (flossing, brushing) and nutritionists (supplements, diet recommendations). With musculoskeletal diseases rising to the #1 disease in the world , It’s time to have a DAILY routine to help preserve our bodies and keep them supple so we live pain-free, mobile lives. Cat and I took a Yoga Tune-Up  course this weekend with Jill Miller, who has focused her career on helping people take care of themselves. And she’s done a pretty darn good job. At CrossFit we spend a lot of time teaching athletes how to care for their bodies, so I wanted to share some important highlights from the weekend that are maybe lost in translation (from coaches or mobility class) or maybe just forgotten along the way.
In or to understand the goal of mobility and what it’s actually doing to your body, I think it’s important to watch the Fuzz Speech by Gil Hedley . I’ve shared this video before, so just a reminder it’s not for those with sensitive stomachs. But totally worth watching. It shows live video of cadaver tissue to demonstrate the different layers of the body and why bodywork/movement is so important. In tissue (fascia, muscle, nerves, blood vessels, skin) there is a certain amount of elasticity that it will have. This changes based on the composition of the tissue (i.e. muscle can stretch a good amount, nerves don’t like to stretch)[R] and also based on the lifestyle a person leads. Things like age, nutrition, hydration, disease state and exercise frequency/type all change a persons’ tissue elasticity. Any time a tissue is static (i.e. sitting or sleeping in a fetal position or wearing a cast for a few months) the tissue starts to adhere to the tissues around it. If there’s nothing done to counter this adhesion, there is little to no blood flow that travels through that area. So the cells create waste as they always do, but nothing is helping to flush out the area to help keep the tissue healthy. This longstanding cycle create very unhealthy tissue that’s hard to stretch, hard to activate and hard to strengthen! Jill Miller likes to avoid using the word toxins (because it’s all natural things in the body) but more thinking more about sitting in your own waste products (aka bathroom waste) . Not something you want to be doing, and your body will tell you over time with lack of mobility, aches, pains and/or injury. And any restriction in a tissue will cause the muscle and joints to not function properly, completely affecting your life and your workouts.
Fascia in between different layers of a muscle
Pay attention to the scar tissue (adhesion) that’s formed after injury
Physiologic Response of Mobilizing Tissue 
- Loosening tissue adhesions in all levels of the body. If you watched the Fuzz Speech, it’s literally picking through the layers (depending on the technique you do) and allowing each layer of tissue to move properly.
- Increased blood flow to the areas to help remove waste and improve elasticity of the tissue
- Stimulation of nerve fibers that have been dormant from the adhesion to increase awareness and strength, as well as decrease pain
- De-sensitization of a usually painful area (hyperactive nerves from chronic injury)
Here is Jill’s main rule of thumb : “If it feels better after it’s been rolled, the discomfort was healthy and therapeutic. If after rolling, the tissue feels worse, that generally indicates that tissue was not healthy enough to withstand the rigors of massage and should be avoided until it has healed.” I think a lot of this is lost in translation because people thin no pain, no gain. This is not the case! There most likely will be discomfort, but bad pain is not going to get you anywhere with improving your body. You might as well just have someone punch you. Remember that there are always modifications to help reduce the level of pressure (use 2 balls instead of one, go to the wall, put a blanket on top of the ball) and if it’s still too much just work around it. You will still get major benefits from working around injured tissue with the increase blood flow and mobile tissues to create a healing environment. Here’s a list of indicators that you’re feeling bad pain and you need to change something:
- Hurts after
- Hurts so much during that you can’t breathe properly
- Global negative reaction (tense body, negative reaction – aka yelling at me in mobility class)
- Nerve sensation (electricity, ice, burning, numbness)
* All you need to do is change the pressure OR work all the around the painful area
Here’s a list of what you should be feeling:
- Increased relief, well-being, release
- Increased range of motion (mobility)
- Decreased pain
- Feelings of warmth/relaxation
- Increased awareness/proprioception of tissue (aka my back feels like my body and not like a stiff block)
We got to be geeks and draw anatomical landmarks on each other:)
The Benefits of Touch
There are so many benefits of touch, which is well summarized here. Besides the tissue healing properties of touch, we also gain a reduction in anxiety/stress because it helps us tap into our parasympathetic system which leads up into relaxation. Most of the day our sympathetic system is turned on and overactive. Not allowing us to chill out and not allowing us to recover properly after a workout! This is why mobilizing after a workout is so beneficial too because it helps athletes downregulate their body from the intense workout it just went through. It’s also great to mobilize before bed to help you sleep!
Without the Breath, Mobility is Worthless
The last important take-home I got from this weekend was the reminder of breath during mobility. I’m constantly reminding people to breathe during mobility because we all tend to hold our breath. If we hold it, we don’t relax and the hard work we’re doing is useless. The oxygen we breathe in helps to clear out the unwanted adhesions. Try to think of breathing into your belly to activate your diaphragm and create the relaxation we need with mobility . If belly breathing is challenging, try this:
- Lie down on your back
- Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to see which hand you breathe more into
- Then try only breathing into your belly hand
If you breathe more into your chest/ribcage (unless you are mobilizing those areas) you get a more sympathetic response and it will be harder to relax. Doing mobility work will also help to improve your breathing! Which will benefit you in your daily life as well as your workouts. So keep calm and breathe on. And stretch like these animals do to get rid of your fuzz!
1.Peter M. Brooks. The Burden of Musculoskeletal Disease – A Global Perspective. 2006. Journal of Clinical Rheumatology.
2. Jill Miller ERYT. Yoga Tune Up Therapy Ball Practitioner Training (maunal). 2013.
3. Gil Hedley, The Fuzz Speech. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FtSP-tkSug.