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How To Feel Great

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How To Feel Great

How To Feel Great

 

Imagine taking a wet sponge and stretching it, twisting it, and bending it. When the sponge is wet, it moves freely with little resistance, but leave it on the counter all night and it becomes stiff and rigid. The flexibility of muscle tissue can easily be compared to the sponge. Healthy muscle tissue allows the body to move, stretch, and twist freely. When muscle tissue becomes rigid, we either become less mobile, create compensation elsewhere, or continue to force movement and suffer an injury. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to keep our muscle tissue healthy and pliable. 

While drinking plenty of water is incredibly important to muscle tissue health, we’re not just talking about hydration. Healthy muscles require good blood flow in order to deliver key nutrients to the tissue. We’re all familiar with the concept of hardening of the arteries, but less familiar with the fact that the same thing can happen to our muscle tissue. 

The first link in the chain is cardiovascular health. Are you regularly getting your heart rate up and increasing the workload on your respiratory system? If not done regularly, the pliability of your muscle tissue will begin to suffer. The muscle will begin to atrophy, simultaneously becoming more rigid from the lack of increased blood flow. When you hear the term, “get the blood flowing,” that’s literally what we’re talking about; increasing the blood flow to the capillaries in the muscles.

The second link in the chain is stress. Stress has a number of physiological responses in the body that can negatively impact muscle tissue. There are multiple types of stress, that all more or less have the same impact on the body. Emotional stress is typically what comes to mind when people hear the term and while emotional stress can often be countered, it cannot be avoided entirely. However, things like not getting adequate sleep, a poor diet, and harmful toxin exposure can also induce a stress response in the body. These can more easily be controlled and avoided. Unfortunately, when any type of stress occurs, the body takes inventory of its resources and prioritizes the systems that are essential for survival, neglecting many of the processes that keep muscle tissue healthy.

The third link is the nervous system. The nervous system has been described as the command center of the body. It functions both automatically and voluntarily. While it’s influenced by countless stimuli, when it comes to movement, we’re focused on nerve endings. Nerve endings influence communication between the brain and muscles. Creating familiar neural pathways is referred to as muscle memory, however neural sequencing can compensate for poor movement and the muscle memory may not be as efficient as it could be. If a particular muscle does not respond well, then movement suffers. This poor response could have initially been caused from the first two links in the chain. 

Now that we understand a little bit more about what’s influencing muscle tissue and movement, the question becomes what do we do about it? 

The lowest hanging fruit and simplest solution is to workout. Working out positively impacts the cardiovascular system and increases blood flow throughout the body. It makes our bodies more physiologically resilient to stress, reducing the negative impacts stress has on pretty much all the systems of the body. Not only does working out train the muscle, but also trains the nervous system. In return our body begins to move more efficiently and becomes more comfortable with our movement patterns. This is a great starting point, but typically isn’t enough on its own to fix muscle tissue entirely.

A proper diet, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress are also important to improving and maintaining quality muscle tissue. I would add that soft tissue work like neuromuscular release, massage, and foam rolling are also necessary components to improving blood flow and neural firing.

In conclusion, the key to feeling great and moving freely without pain and/or restriction is to prioritize muscle tissue health. To do this, we need to eat right, manage stress, workout, and give our bodies a little TLC.

 


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