I’ve been investigating this topic for a couple years now – it has felt like the missing link in this quest I’ve had to understand how the rotational properties of the body generate extraordinary – and seemingly untiring – force during certain kinds of actions – like swimming from the core for hours, or how a little old aikido master can throw a large attacker several meters away.
I already had a fascination with aikido when I ran into an instructor, Bryan Walker, who happen to have a physiology background. I started drilling him for insight. He pointed me in the direction of myofascial system and Anatomy Trains. It’s founder, Tom Myers, is the leading therapeutic specialist on this topic. I’ve been hooked on the subject and eating up as much material as I can. I see serious potential for applying this knowledge to how we develop swimmers (or any athlete). The field is finally gaining recognition – after centuries of Western medical researchers literally cutting fascia out of the way and disregarding is as a sticky waste product! The horizon is wide open for how this understanding of the body may be applied to our athletic well-being.
Fascia is made up primarily of densely packed collagen fibers that create a full body system of sheets, chords and bags that wrap, divide and permeate every one of your muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. Every bit of you is encased in it. You’re protected by fascia, connected by fascia and kept in taut human shape by fascia.
Here’s an interesting fact to get you thinking of the implications of your fascia system: up to 50% of the force you generate in your muscles in a movement pattern may be conducted through the body by your myofascial system – not your bones (as the rigid, bone/muscle mechanical model of the body presumes). You know why some people look so smooth, while being incredibly powerful? They may be tapping into the conductive properties of that fascia system and using it to their advantage. What I am studying is how to recognize then tap into that fascia system and use it to improve our performance.
In Facebook, I saw one of my friends a link to this article in Runner’s World that provides a succinct and friendly explanation of the myofascial system and its implication for runners (and swimmers too).
While you may not share the medical and bodywork communities’ excitement over mechanotransduction and the contractile properties of myofibroblasts, think of it this way: Fascia is a major player in every movement you make and every injury you’ve ever had, but until five years ago nobody paid it any attention. And now they’re making up for lost time.
If you happen to wonder how your body works – or rather, how it seems to break down so easily or doesn’t generate as much power as you think it should – you may want to check out this article and then look for a professional therapist near you who works with the fascia and could explain the implications of this system in your particular case.
At least you could learn how your heel is connected all the way to your skull and why it can feel so good over other seemingly unrelated parts of the body when you get a foot massage. Then consider what that foot massage may do for your swimming!
PS – if you are a swimmer who happens to be one of those professionals with some training or studied appreciation for the myofascial system I would greatly appreciate you contacting me to talk about this further.