In the first blog I wrote in my new “The Other 23 Hours” blog series, I discussed the importance of taking “microbreaks” throughout the day. This is especially important for those who sit for long periods of time as this can have severely destructive effects on the body! My basic message again with this blog series seems very common sense in stating that the other 23 hours of the day, apart from your exercise session (assuming one is even exercising), may be more important to your long-term health and progess than the one hour or so spent training.
Here’s a pretty common scenario of many people in modern life:
1) Wake-up- (stiff and still tired), drive to work (sitting).
2) Sit on and off all day at work.
3) Drive home and then sit for remainder of night after dinner to relax watching TV or playing video games!
That is a lot of sitting that can program the body over time to lose valuable range of motion (ROM) in the joints by decreasing the extensibility of the myo-fascial system (you can’t really talk about muscles without mentioning fascia). Pavel Tsatsouline, in his informative and helpful book Superjoints, says the following:
“you get rusty whenever your proprioceptors- the sensors that give your body information about its position in space, its speed of movement, etc.- do not get any new input for a while. When nothing happens, your nervous system is not sure what to expect from the environment and tightens up your muscles- just in case. That’s why you feel like the Tin Man in the morning or after any long period of inactivity.”
Feeling Like the Tin Man is Not so Fun!
Now in this blog, I want to talk about undoing some of those negative effects we all accumulate from the day by creating the habit of doing some pre-bed self-massage (aka “self-myofascial release”) and stretching. By decreasing unnecessary or excessive muscular tone or “tonus” in the body’s muscular system, it is then theoretically easier to stretch out and lengthen any structures or tissues that have lost normal or ideal resting length. There is not a lot of scientific data on pre-bed stretching so much of what I’m saying here is totally anecdotal but does seem to ”work” for those who adopt it into their lifestyle habits.
So in an ideal scenario, you would first do some self-massage with foam rollers, massage sticks, lacrosse balls, tennis balls, small massage balls, etc. There really is no magic to one specific brand of massage device over another since the real key is the application of the pressure and specificity of that application. The following video will demonstrate some of the release techniques that I like to perform.
For those who are still unfamiliar with all that you can do with self-massage, I have a 2 disk DVD set called Recovery & Regeneration that I sell for $40 off my site here.
Shamless Plug for My Own Self-Massage DVD!
After you’ve performed some self-massage, its now a good time to take advantage of the small window of opportunity the restore some adequate length. For me, I prefer mostly static type of stretching here as I’m trying to wind down from the day and am not concerned with short-term strength or power loss. Also, the stretches I recommend are more floor-based, or supported stretches which allow for greater relaxation since less postural demand is needed compared more standing type of stretches. Of course if you have a favorite yoga routine or other stretch series you prefer than by all means, throw it in.
This might also be a good time to throw in some breath work (diaphragmatic breathing) to really try to get into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) and out of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) that we spend too much time in during the day. Since I am a proponent of the Funcitonal Movement Screen (FMS), this would also be an opportunity to work on any troubled movement pattern correction as well.
Here is a video going over some examples and my thoughts on pre-bed stretching:
I hope this blog and its videos encourages you or someone you might know to begin a ritual of some pre-bed self-massage and stretching. Thanks for reading and watching!