When we are stiff and sore, we stretch our muscles to get more flexible, but that does not paint the whole picture. Flexibility is also determined by layers of interwoven connective tissue that surrounds each muscle, and really the whole body.
Picture garlic. The entire thing is made up of several cloves, bound together by layers of thick papery skin. As we peel that away we find each clove is wrapped by thinner, tighter skin that is often difficult to remove. Our bodies are the same, with layers of connective tissue covering every organ, muscle, and cell of our bodies.
In fact, our bodies are literally connected from the tops of our heads to the bottoms of our feet by several types of connective tissue. When a gymnast performs a vault, the very fact she can run, jump, twist, flip, and land is due to connective tissue absorbing the impact of landing, while pulling her in the direction the muscles are contracting, protecting her joints, and more. If she simply relied on a specific muscle group to work during the running, and other muscles during the flip and landing, she could never perform it. It is all made possible by all the different types of connective tissue (ligament, tendon, fascia) that pulls her together.
It’s probably not surprising to learn that connective tissue, like everything in our bodies, relies on physical activity to be healthy. In fact, when we are inactive for a period of time (think of sitting for hours), we often feel tight and stiff when we first get up. This tightness that we often contribute to our muscles, is also coming from connective tissue.
Take a Look
In the low back, where we commonly feel tight and stiff, there is more connective tissue (white) than muscle tissue (red).
Movement provides lubrication, circulation, and warmth to the connective tissue, so as we start moving after sitting for a long period of time, it begins to loosen up- decreasing stiffness and improving flexibility.
In July, I will be offering a 3 Month Strong! Coaching Package to improve flexibility, mobility and strength. Stay tuned for the details on the package and how you can sign up for a free consultation!