Don’t Fight Yourself: How Rolfing can Improve Athletic Performance
Quit fighting yourself.
This may seem like an odd thing to say, but in a very real way your body is constantly struggling against itself. Throughout your body there are layers of fascial restrictions which cause you to move, stand or sit in certain patterns and positions.
This can be an advantageous thing by helping to reinforce different patterns that you use frequently. On the other hand, it can be quite a hinderance - causing you to fight against yourself when you move and fight against gravity when you stand, walk or run.
So why does this happen? For one very simple reason: fascial restrictions. These can take the shape of adhesions between muscles, adhesions within a muscle, restrictions within a layer of fascia, muscle gliding issues, compartment syndrome, so on and so forth. They all have slightly different names and functions, but the general idea is this: if fascia isn’t healthy, it gets sticky.
When you sleep (or any time you’re not moving), your body grows new layers of fascia. This is a natural ongoing process.
Throughout the rest of the day, your body naturally releases the smaller bits of fascia according to your range of motion. To get a visual, I’ll once again link to my favorite Gil Hedley video called “the fuzz speech”:
In the video you can see Gil demonstrate how “newer” fascia is able to easily release, whereas “older” fascia literally gets harder - harder to the touch and harder to release.
Therefore, if you don’t have a full natural range of motion - moving through the full range of motion of each of your joints throughout the day - then they will lock down over time due to the buildup of fascial tissue.
For some people this isn’t a big deal. They are the ones that generally have good habits that allows them to move freely, maintain good posture, etc. However, for the rest of us who find themselves in static positions or repetitive motions throughout the day due to work conditions, lifestyle choices, or bad habits don’t tend to release this newly built-up fascia, or at least don’t move enough to release it fully.
Changes in Muscle Function
Over time, this causes slight shifts in how your muscles are able to function. It may increase the load on your back because of restricted hip flexors, or cause the muscles in your shoulders to become under active because of restrictions in the front of your chest. Or it may be more complicated - a restriction in your ankle may cause a change in your gait pattern, causing a change in how you swing your arms, causing the muscles in your neck to spasm. This may sound farfetched, but I’ve seen it happen.
How does Rolfing improve athletic performance?
In Rolfing we work to release fascial tension patterns throughout the entire body. This means releasing adhesions in specific areas that may be limiting range of motion or mobility, releasing long-term tension patterns formed by years of wear, scar tissue, etc., and balancing everything out so that it can work as a cohesive unit.
Here’s the main points:
- If you improve the overall condition of fascia in your body, it will move better as an entire unit.
- If you free fascial restrictions, your muscles will work more efficiently.
- If you aren’t fighting against yourself, you’ll have more energy to devote to what you actually want to do.
“If you can imagine how it feels to live in a fluid, light, balanced body, free of pain, stiffness and chronic stress, at ease with itself and the gravitational field, then you will understand the purpose of Rolfing. ”
— Dr. Ida P. Rolf