All of us at some point have experienced trying to reach a goal of either recovering from an injury, improving fitness or improving mobility. All involving the state of our tissue’s health. And all bringing up these questions. ” When will I be healed enough to exercise normally?” ” How long will it take me to reach my mobility goals?” “Is there anything I can be doing to help me reach my goals sooner?” “Why can’t I lift more weight faster?” The answer to these questions involves way more that the physiology of the musculoskeletal system that most people think about. And I want to bring awareness to these other factors in order to help answer these questions and get people towards their goals faster.
Let’s start with a familiar experience to help explain. Imagine you’re sitting down to write a very important e-mail. You’re sitting at work and your co-worker keeps talking to you. Then the phone rings. Then you get a text message. Then a Facebook alert. Then your other co-worker taps you on the shoulder because he needs help with something. You’re trying your best to sit and write this important e-mail, maybe writing a sentence every minute and then re-writing it because you know it made no sense. The various distractions around you are slowing you down and distracting you from writing a quality e-mail. You eventually get the e-mail done, but it’s taken you hours and you know it’s not clearly thought out because of all the interruption you’ve had to take in between.
Now imagine the e-mail is your injury, fitness or mobility goal. The co-workers, phone, Facebook, tapping….all represent the internal environment of your body that is usually there to support the body. Let’s say you haven’t been eating well because you haven’t had time, so you’re nutrient levels are off. You didn’t sleep well because you’ve been stressed, so your hormone levels are off even more today creating more disruption in your body. And you forgot to drink enough water today because you’ve been drinking so much coffee to try to stay awake. So the blood that’s traveling to the area of need (aka your goal area) is not moving well (dehydrated), not nutritious and probably not oxygen rich because you’re stressed and not breathing well (aka short, shallow breaths causing more tension in your neck). All of these internal factors will slow down your goal progress (if not stop it all together) and once you get there your end goal will not be the high quality result that you were striving for. Leading to other issues down the road. And probably one heck of a frustrated attitude.
We need an optimal internal environment if we expect to get optimal results with our musculoskeletal goals.
So how do we create an optimal internal environment? Start with checking in with your body and improving the following:
There is an easy to read article by Dr. Steve Gangemi Joint and Tissue Repair – Enough to Make You GAG. Here he explains the relationship of what we put in our bodies (food and water) and how it affects the health of our tissues and joints. Connective tissue is what makes up all of our muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, cartilage, etc. And protects our organs. Connective tissue is created and repaired by WHAT WE EAT. When we have injury, or tight muscle/joint, we need the ability to regenerate and create healthy, pliable connective tissue. If we don’t eat well, the connective tissue creation pathway (see this post for more details) will be slowed or even stopped. Just like the distractions at work affected the ability to write an important e-mail. So how do you know if you are eating healthy? You don’t until you have blood work done! And not just the normal physical blood work. Get your blood work done through something like Wellness Fx.
A nutritionist I worked with back in California, Andrea McDaniel, wrote an informative post Is Stress Impacting Your Health and Body Composition Goals. She explained how cortisol affects our body when we are under stress (physical and emotional) because it’s released in excess. When our cortisol levels are super high, the liver has to work extra hard to clear out the excess. Kinda like you trying to work hard to write that e-mail with all the distractions. So the pathways that are needed to create connective tissue to help you reach your injury/fitness/mobility goal is slowed down because the body is constantly trying to control your cortisol levels. Do you have a way to manage your stress? Blood work can be done to check your cortisol levels as well, which may be a great thing to know. Especially as they vary throughout the day. You may need another outlet other than exercise since exercise will increase your cortisol as well (worthy read about this here). Yoga, meditation, speaking to a psychologist, etc. I used to think people who saw psychologists had extreme issues. But now that I’ve been working with one for years I would highly recommend it to everyone. We all have our stuff to work through and having a non-opinionated outlet is FANTASTIC! Don’t forget to find time to play…..being lighthearted and taking a break from our organized/structured day will help you feel better instantly.
Did you know that if we don’t get enough quality sleep we can wake-up in a pre-diabetic state with our immune system compromised? And that’s before our morning coffee and whatever other stressors we encounter throughout the day. Not the best way to start the day. And definitely not the way to treat our body if we are expecting it to be in tip top shape to reach our goals. Being sleep deprived not only changes your hormone levels, but also creates more work for our body to try to maintain homeostasis (our body’s natural, healthy state). Let alone reach our goals in a timely manner.
So if you’re working on something in your musculoskeletal system (as most of us always are), contemplate these questions. Then take action!
Are you sleeping well?
Are you eating well?
Are you drinking enough water?
Are you managing your stress?
Are you breathing (good breaths) throughout the day?
By all means, don’t go crazy trying to fix your stress, sleep and nutrition all at once. I know first hand that it can be overwhelming and create more stress. I became a major hypochondriac when I first went through some of this testing because EVERYTHING was bad. A doctor told me I was like an 80 year old woman (now I can laugh at that but it was depressing at first) because of how low my nutrient levels were. Just start somewhere and work through all of the new information you find from your blood work. Think of it as a journey. Try different things to find what works for you. And then sit back and watch how quickly you will recover from injury. And improve your mobility. And reach your fitness goals. You may be doing all the obvious things right by resting from exercise and mobilizing. But something may be missing that’s hindering your progress, so take some action and see if you can reach your goals sooner and live a healthier life!