An introduction to this topic
For so long, gym goers worldwide have tried to make the most effective warm-up in the shortest amount of time. But without a deep understanding of the desired outcomes for a warm-up to be effective inappropriate shortcuts are made and injuries occur.
Is 5 minutes of light jogging alongside some basic stretches enough? Or do we really need an overly complicated, planned-out approach that takes away from our training?
What is flow?
Here we will discuss the basic mechanics of movement flow as well as some different parameters in which flow can be performed.
Movement flow is the earliest form of movement prep, maybe so early & foundational it has been overlooked. Think about the wild series of automatic shakes & stretches you perform upon waking in the morning, the swinging of limbs as you ‘Limber up’ for an activity. All of these are ways we have learned to assess & prep our bodies for movement. Your brain will scan the body & stretch what is tight & squeeze or shake what needs to be awakened.
One method for flow is practicing a choreographed sequence of movements & their transitions. This way you involve your brain in the motor learning process to improve body coordination. A significant benefit to a pre-programmed flow is knowing you’ll be even left to right as well as targeting all movements, or joint positions required.
The ‘Free Flow’ method holds the highest form of flow. It is completely immersing yourself in yourself & moving without a pre-empt thought. This way you will move where your body wants to move, needs to move & help calm the mind from external thoughts or stressors.
Movement Flow as a Self Assessment
Warming up & prepping the body for exercise isn’t just about the body itself, the brain has to be awake, engaged & in control. You may wonder why you would stub a toe as you stand up from the couch, trip over yourself, or hit a wall as you’re crawling out of bed in the morning, this clumsy behavior is moving before your brain has all systems engaged & doesn’t have a full understanding of the body or where it is in space.
Pandiculation is the term used for that involuntary stretch upon waking or, after sitting for so long. It is a part of the arousal function, as it seems to reset the central nervous system to the waking state after a period of sleep and prepare for an activity. Pandiculation plays an integrative role in the myofascial system by developing and maintaining appropriate physiological fascial interconnections as well as modulating the pre-stress state of the myofascial system by regularly activating the musculature.
Sensory input for tight muscles
Within the muscles & the connective tissue surrounding them are sensors that tell the brain how tight a muscle is or needs to be. Moving your body through positions of mobility you already have assess to resets these sensors to their original state to prevent further loss of mobility & make the tissues more responsive to action.
Assessing threats to the body
Next to flowing to assess the current state of mobility, the brain also needs to evaluate any potential threats, AKA stability issues. As you move through a position you may come across an area that’s not so strong & shows some wobbles, your central nervous system sees these as a threat, a potential for injury. You may not improve the instability as such, but making the body aware of it helps avoid or control it better during the workout.
Fascial lines & their sensory feedback
Gone of the days of seeing the muscles & joints work independently of each other like they have their own task despite whatever the other muscles are doing.
There are lines of connective tissue (Fascia) coating all muscles and linking them together to coordinate a task together. Within this network of fascial lines are the sensors that communicate to the nervous system feeding information about the state & rate of stretch as well as the amount of tension applied to the tissues. The brain will gather this data to make motor output decisions to complete a task.
A movement flow complements these systems perfectly. Most movements will stretch out, hydrate & activate these fascial lines & wake the sensors for stretch & tension ready for potential action AKA the workout!
Blood flow & Lymphatic
When muscles aren’t moved the fascia becomes sticky, stiffens & dehydrates making it harder to use & after a while toxins build up due to lack of blood & lymphatic flow.
The heart is an incredible muscle but still not powerful enough to pull blood up against gravity, contracting & moving muscles do this. Plus it provides vital nutrients for the muscles to work & recover. Another way muscles rehydrate & flush fresh blood is through stretch. As a muscle is pulled into length the tissues compress, squeezing the fluid out like a sponge, as soon as the muscle returns fresh blood rushes through.
A movement flow does both of these jobs perfectly, contracts muscles in different positions against gravity as well as constantly stretching these long fascial lines making the body fresh & ready for work.
The Lymphatic system
The lymphatic system is a part of your immune system, your body relies on it to remove waste, like bacteria, viruses, toxins, and abnormal cells. But this system doesn’t have a pump like the heart so it solely relies on movement to be activated. Movement flows, as previously mentioned contract & move a lot of muscle lines, activating the lymphatic flow so waste & toxins are removed & urinated out, this allows the muscles to work without the stress of moving in a toxic environment.
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