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Tight & Stiff Muscles

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water” – Bruce Lee

Ahh to be “shapeless”, “formless”, I’d feel so flexible. I hardly feel that way. My knees ache when I bend down (and get up!), I do a series of exercises just to tie my shoes, and things that I “used to do” all the time (in my 30’s) are now how I “over-do” (in my 40’s)! Ok, ok, it’s not that bad, but I’m not great as I once was😉  Bruce is on to something, it’s WATER that’s missing. We can stretch like Gumby all day, but without water, you’ll be left stiff, tight, and sore..

Drench the muscles, while stretching the muscles…

Q: Why is water so important?

A: 60% of your body is water, but where it is, is in your muscles (76%), and in a connective tissue, Fascia (70%), that is primarily responsible for why you feel tight, sore, and can’t move easily and freely. Fascia, is the casing around almost everything in your body, and when it’s dehydrated, it starts to stick together, think of saran wrap all wrapped on itself, ain’t nothing moving! 

Q: I thought you get tight because your muscles get short? 

A: That’s a big MYTH. Your muscles actually don’t get tight, stiff, or short, they always have the same resting length it had before you felt tight. When you stretch, the muscle doesn’t get longer, muscle length always stays the same. Your muscles are always nice and loose…and long! 

Q: Then why do I feel tight, and I can’t I touch my toes like a Yogi? 

A: It’s because your nervous system is protecting you. Your nervous system has more to do with your flexibility than anything. As you continue to move and take your body, slowly and cautiously, to new ranges of motion, you increase the tolerance of your nervous system – your body allows you to tolerate more of a stretch. (this is a whole subject called – stretch tolerance – we will discuss another time) 

Q: What does water have to do with tightness and flexibility? 

A: The role of Fascia is critical to understanding where tightness, stiffness, lack of mobility comes from. Each individual muscle and its tiny muscle fibers are encased in Fascia. Fascia is 70% water, when dehydrated, Fascia gets really sticky and sticks to what it’s encasing (muscle and muscle fibers), and to itself (other muscles it’s encasing), so now you have everything stuck together, nothing is moving. Everything feels really tight, and when you do move it, it hurts. 

Q: How does water work with stretching?

A: Proper stretching, moving, massage, all these can help to break up and separate the Fascia layers so water can properly hydrate the areas. Note: Water has a difficult time to penetrate these Fascial layers when they stick together, so consuming large amounts of water can be ineffective, if you can physically separate these areas, through movement and stretching, you will allow water to absorb the tissue. 

Q: How much water should I drink?

A: My general rule is, take your body weight, divide by 2, take that number and drink that number of ounces of water.  I’m 180lbs, I try to drink 90ounces per water each day. Shakes, drinks count (except coffee!). I drink 32ounce when I wake up, 16 ounces in my morning shake, 32 ounces before 4pm, and then 12-14ounces in my shake before bed. To me, hydration is more important before my workouts than after (although I do both). Water is the true SuperFood, nothing compares. 

Q: Parting thoughts?

A: My dad is 82yrs old, older people really need to focus on drinking water. As we age, we lose water quicker, we lose our sense of thirst, and our bladder/lifestyle can keep us from drinking a lot. Age related weakness is due more to the loss of muscle quality than muscle mass, that’s a water problem. Dehydration thickens the blood, which makes it harder for the heart to pump, which reduces blood flow, which makes muscles tight, sore, stiff, which reduces movement, which then reduces quality of life…and we know what happens next…stay hydrated, drink electrolytes, and keep moving!