If you want to move better, and ski without aches and pains, it’s time to stop blaming lactic acid build up, your dodgy ACL or wear-and-tear from previous adventures-slash-misadventures, and start taking care of your fascia. Whistler Blackcomb ski instructor and physiotherapist and Rolfer, Paul Sherman, explains why everyone is talking about “the fuzz.”
The first attempts at walking by my 11 month-old look as though he’s in zero gravity and should be wearing space boots. He takes huge steps and wobbles like he can’t quite place his centre of mass, but wears this “I’m conquering the impossible” grin that makes us all cheer for the obvious pleasure he takes in new movement.
I creak and groan as I chase him around the floor, admiring his developing muscles and general bounce factor. When I ride the chairlift with his grandpa, we compare aches and pains and wonder how we’re going to keep up with the kid once he starts to ski.
Paul Sherman has a little one, too. “He falls over, then sits up with perfect posture. When he breathes, he breathes into his belly. That’s grace. We are only as young as we are flexible. Getting older is really just the body drying out.”
At 39, Paul Sherman is lucky to be getting older at all. In 2010, he was in an avalanche, buried under 2.5 metres of snow for 20 minutes, requiring resuscitation upon his rescue. The accident also damaged his shoulder and wrecked his hip. “As a physiotherapist, I became a hypochondriac. A surgeon told me I should be stopping everything.”
He describes how this led him to Rolfing: “After the accident, I diligently worked on my rehabilitation, but my whole body seemed to be falling to pieces. One injury would get slightly better then something else would flare up. I was just chasing the pain. What I really needed to do was to treat my whole system –systematically – to bring it back to a normal state. This is where I discovered Rolfing. From that first session that I received, I was blown away by the power of the work, so much so I was inspired to study Rolfing and in 2012, I graduated from the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.”
He explained the 5 smartest things a skier can do in order to move better, last longer, and keep up with the kids.
Melt the fuzz.
Jump out of bed with a big stretch.
Until recently, fascia was covered in a cursory, half-page entry in door-stop sized anatomy textbooks. The gel-like goop, or connective tissue, was traditionally peeled away a like plastic wrap by dissectionists trying to get to the good stuff, and pretty much ignored.
But really, the fascia is what hangs everything together. It’s a densely packed connective tissue that allows muscles to slide and glide, hangs organs in place, and encases nerves and blood vessels.
Its suppleness can be impacted by inactivity, stress, poor posture or injury.
Sherman’s teacher, Guy Voyer DO, says a muscle is a stupid piece of meat. It just contracts and relaxes. And it can’t do that if it’s being restricted by the fascial system.
“Fascia isn’t a tissue,” says Sherman. “It’s alive. It’s a network, and if it’s working correctly, it’s sending message to your nerves and your system won’t get overloaded.”
Dr. Gil Hedley explains that adhesions and rigidity that form in the fascia, even as we sleep, need to be “melted” by movement, stretching, massage and hydration, every day.
Drink water. First thing. Before the coffee even starts to perc.
Water feeds the fascia.
It lubricates this connective tissue, keeping it supple and moving, and preventing it from sticking together.
Paul Sherman explains that “a dehydrated fascial system leaves you feeling stiff, achy and tired. Dehydration causes fascia to become tight and prone to microtears. When the fascia is too tight it essentially shrink-wraps the muscle. This extra pressure keeps the muscle from being able to contract fully, rendering it weaker. If you drink more water earlier in the day, that will provide the maximum lubrication for your fascia when you are active and need it the most.”
Start each day with a large glass of water as soon as you wake. Sherman’s Facebook page shares the formula you can use to work out just how much water you should be drinking a day, based on your body weight.
At the top of the lift, before you take your first run, do a dynamic warm up.
“Before skiing,” says Sherman, “you need to be mobilizing. Do a dynamic warm up that imitates what you’re going to be doing and how you’re going to be moving: squatting, hopping, stepping. Do it as close as you can to where you’re going to perform.”
End your day with stretching.
“The next day you’ll have less performance and be more susceptible to injury if you don’t stretch because your muscles are tired. By stretching your muscles and fascial system, you get hydrated. When you stretch the fascial system, it opens itself up and it will suck in water, and that’s food for the system.”
Stretching and beer drinking are not mutually exclusive. “Who says you can’t stretch after you’ve had the beer?” says Sherman. “It will only take about 15 minutes.
Hot tub and massage are therapeutically endorsed.
“The hot tub is great,” says Sherman. “Everyone loves sitting in a hot tub. If you’re not going to stretch, a hot tub is your best option. It’s definitely better than doing nothing.”
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