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Bodywork for the Lifelong Athlete

Gnarly Clinics

Bodywork for the Lifelong Athlete


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Jessa Munio

Advanced massage therapy or otherwise known as Bodywork helps prevents injuries, shortens recovery time, increases athletic performance and sustains ability and agility over a lifetime. The benefits of bodywork are immense and often immediate, incorporating bodywork into your rest and recovery program is highly recommended for those who want to move well, forever. In this clinic we’ll quickly grasp how bodywork works on your muscle and fascial systems, how to get the most out of your bodywork, what to look for in a therapist, the proper cadence for best results, and learn a 10 minutes whole body deep tissue self massage technique developed specifically for athletes.

In This Clinic

Intro: What is Bodywork?

  • Bodywork is a wide array of modalities that can be offered by a licensed massage therapist, a chiropractor, your physical therapist, or other people in the wellness world.

  • In a general setting, it involves advanced manual therapy techniques by a very seasoned massage therapist.

  • Bodywork uses techniques/tools that alter the physical structure of tissues and cells to enhance the function of those tissues and cells.

Why Do Bodywork?

  • In general, bodywork is like an adaptogenic herb - it is a positive, beneficial, and useful supplement that enhances your functionality as a human

    • Reduces tension and pain in muscles

    • Increases circulation

    • Helps bring nutrition and hydration into those areas with chronic tension and pain

    • Helps blood flow in and waste flow out, so every cell can revert to primary function

    • Improves joint mobility

    • Helps with sleep

    • Helps manage your endocrine system

    • Helps your immune system

Crisis of Captivity

Movement Ecology

As human beings, what shapes our bodies are invisible forces of all the movements we do and the movements we don't do, as well as the gravitational force acting on us at all times. This affects us on a macro and micro level.

What is the Crisis of Captivity?

We are moving less than we ever have before in the history of human development. Even "active" people are only moving 4% more than sedentary people. Even those who move a lot, i.e. 5 hours 3x week or 8 hrs 4x a week, they are only moving 15-30 hours per week, which is only a 20% period of movement across all hours in the span of a week.

The Average American: 1 hr/day movement * 7 days/week = 420 min/1080 min = only 4% movement weekly

90 degree Sitting Position

Even between the big bowels of activities, i.e. a six hour backcountry trip, a long climb, at the end of the day, if you're not doing that exercise/sport, you’re in one common sedentary position: the 90 degree flex and sit position. This is the position you're in in your desk, car, watching TV, laying down, etc.

Postural Deviations

In this period of planetary adaptation, we move at high intensity for a short period of time and then go back to sedentary. This pendulum swing from high to low creates specific issue of tissues for those want to be active for a long period of time.


Looking at your phone and sitting in chairs, for example, creates long term systemic shaping of your very basic structure - postural deviations - which alter the relationship of gravity to our body.


As an athlete, you take these postural deviations from your your resting posture/inadequacies/compensations with you into your movement patterns. These faulty patterns create wear and tear that can affect your ability to perform as an athlete.

Movement v. Exercise

People typically consider movement exercise, but exercise is just a small category of movement.


Humans spent the majority of their day moving before technology: hunters, gathers, amazons, typically moving 8 hrs/day every day instead of 2-3 each day.



  • Needed for breathing, digestion, etc.
  • If you start to lose mobility from not moving, it creates big issues
  • Instead of sitting in the 90 degree position: sit on the floor, squat, kneel, get a standing desk - vary the way you move.
  • Big movements at a macro level, whereas movement focuses on the micro level.

Old World Anatomy v. The new anatomy

When we look at anatomy through dissection, it's coming from a Newtonian physics perspective, a view of the world where everything was reduced down to its very smallest part and related to the analogy of a machine.

Mechanical Anatomy

As know as Old World Anatomy, mechanical anatomy is where we dissect a human body, pull it apart, find the smallest parts and pieces, label them see how they're connected, and then put them back together.

Sp we get this very machine based or robotic idea about human anatomy, and we translate that into how we think about movement. This old idea of anatomy and human movement was: muscles move bones, bones act as a lever, and muscles act as a pulley.


This idea is fairly useful for learning anatomy and understanding all the little parts, but the human body doesn't work that way and mechanical anatomy does very little to explain the way a human body moves when it's alive.

The new Anatomy:

Synergetic interconnectedness

The new anatomy that science and studies are supporting is known as synergetic interconnectedness. It's about fascia: the matrix in which every single cell of your body is suspended.


Fascia is fractile, dynamic, diverse; it is interwoven, interdependent, comprehensive; it wraps from your skin in, around, and through every layer and level of your body from the macro to the micro. Everything works together and moves together.

What is FASCIA?

Fascia connects layers of skin to deeper layers of muscle. These levels of connectivity are referred to as myofascial meridians or anatomy trains.

hydration and connectivity:

Fascia is one of the most highly innervated tissues outside your brain. It is literally the direct link of your brain to your body; it is a hydroelectric connective current throughout your entire body. So when your fascia is dehydrated or stuck, whether your muscles are strong or pliable or stretchy, it really doesn't matter if the nerve can't activate that specific aspect of your body.


These myofascial meridians are really useful when we start to look at patterns of strain or pain, or wear and tear, and we can move into a more global and holistic approach to resolving issues and also preventing them.

Fascial connection:

The tissue is one full piece, so think from the inner arch of your foot going up through your inner shin lacing, all the way out to your outer IT band and then across the body through your obliques all the way around to behind your shoulder blade and up the neck. These meridians connect across the entire expanse of your body, from foot to head and from finger to finger. This means there's this very clear connected continuation of force distribution across that meridian. So no part of you moves without the other part of you moving.

Most often when you're experiencing pain or dysfunction, it is not localized. For you to progress to move beyond someone who has chronic pains that occur every season, etc., into a person that has full elasticity pliability and powerful movement patterns that leave you able to move really dynamically in your full expression without lingering issues, we have to look and treat your entire myofascial meridian.

Bodywork is the antidote

Bodywork is the antidote to the modern sedentary lifestyle. Think of it like you do nutrition. It is a necessary consideration for overall health, and a critical component of the active recovery required to keep your athletic performance at a peak over time. Just like nutrition, your body craves intense, varied movements, lots of it, consistently over time. Given the constraints of the modern world, a 60-90 min session of bodywork is like a supplement - the same way you take greens, BCAAs, collagen - it is a necessary nutrient that is fundamental to your wellbeing.

Counteract sedentary and bridge the gap with Bodywork

  • Brings in an infusion of nutrient-dense movement that rebuilds and rebalances fascia


  • Increases spatial awareness, interception, proprioception and sensory system.
    • Ex: most of us have been wearing shoes since the day we were born, but the places with the most joints are the places that are meant to have the most movement. So when you "cast" your foot in a shoe, you take away its capacity to move, and things higher up the chain have to adapt around that.
    • If you're a climber or a backcountry skier or a runner you are getting a lot of healthy input for your nervous system from simply being outside. But most of us are spending a lot of time where our sensory nervous system doesn't have to do that, i.e. when we're looking at flat screens - our eyesight doesn't have to take in depth variability. Spatial awareness, your actual ability to orient your body in relationship to the space around it, atrophies the same way muscle or collagen or fascia does when it doesn't get exposure to dynamic movement.


  • Stretch entire and multiple planes of the body at once - on a global level instead of a local level
    • Cellular sedentary refers to deserts in body that are dehydrated/malnourished. This is where bodywork comes in to move these areas back to life.


  • Varies the vectors
    • Multidimensional input for comprehensive matrix movement


  • Whole body dynamic movement focused on fascia neutrality, such as yoga, pilates, tai chi, etc.
    • Reconditions fascia and neutralizes the postural deviations

tips and tools

rehab proactive vs reactive

For those who want to progress, we need to start acting proactively and treat bodywork like the preventative medicine that it is. Once you feel pain in your body, even if it's a subtle pain, your injury is in it's very latest stage.


Regular bodywork is going to create that fascial freedom and health that is critical for you to avoid the injuries that can sometimes occur when you are asking those big repetitive movements of your body that you do if you're an athlete. Bodywork will create this highly elasticized, pliable, strong, but stretchy, hydrated, and connected fascial network that is going to move effortlessly and fluidly any way.


1x week or 1x every 6 weeks

Bodies like regular input - you need to brush your teeth pretty regularly, shower regularly, eat food regularly, etc. The regenerative quality of the body is such that we need it to be regular so in terms of cadence I always recommend going anywhere from once a week to once every six weeks.


There's a couple of considerations: are you a simple or complex structure? A simple structure is a person who doesn't have or hasn't had any injuries or surgeries or pain or strain - your facial network may be genetically strong or just inherently pretty healthy. Whereas if you are a complex structure, which most long-term athletes are, you maybe have asked more of your fascia and have some strains or tears or labrum issues, or you've broken a bone and had a surgical repair, or if you have any genetic deviations such as a scoliosis - those are things that would put you into the category of a complex structure. Complex structures are always going to benefit from a really regular cadence; usually every two weeks is ideal and optimal for most big movers. After you've had bodywork for three to four months you could move it back to a maintenance program where you're getting body work once every two to six weeks.


1-2 days prior

For competitions and big events, prior to the event it's great to get bodywork one to three days prior to your event. You wouldn't want to get it the day of as there's some specific myofascial tension or entrained patterning that you've worked hard to create that we don't necessarily want to undo right before you start the event.


Fascial stretch immediately, deep tissue 2-3 days after

A thai massage or sports massage is great to do immediately, and then two to three days later get deep tissue or structural integration.


Whole body deep

If you can get some body work prior to your surgery you will be increasing blood flow to every cell in your body, eliminating metabolic buildup and waste, decongesting your fascia and creating that smooth, sliding glide that we want to see. So you're going to go in healthier and come out the other end easier to repair.


Light local

After an operation, a light local fascial release immediately. For those getting big ACL, MCL, knee replacements, etc., if you could get bodywork three to four times before and five to ten times after, you will cut your recovery time by weeks and months. You're helping stimulate that nerve regeneration and fascial regeneration, so it's an incredible boost to help you get back on track quickly.


MFR = microfacial release. This includes deep tissue, structural integration/rolfing, capping, dry needling, and active release techniques.


Look for thai massage, sports massage, and myofascial release. Those keywords are what you're going to want to look for as these are actually looking to make structural lasting change to the way your fascial matrix aligns. Cupping in particular is really useful because human bodies are tensegrities where we have tensional forces and compressional forces creating this self-sustaining structure - so decompression is really useful and cupping provides that.

Finding A bodyworker

Word of mouth, check in with your movement community and see who they're seeing. It's always useful to ask your physical therapist; if you have a good physical therapist then they're also getting body work. If you are just searching you should google "mfr myofascial release deep tissue etc" to make sure you find someone qualified.

Fascia & tensegrity

Fascia holds structure in your body by wrapping around muscles and in muscles. It holds things together; it holds things apart. What bodywork is going to help do is help the fascia sheath move and glide separate from the muscle. When you feel pain is when there's a stuck part and the muscle goes to move and it can't, so it stretches and it moves in a different direction.


When you're in pain, it can come from too much tension or too much compression or too much slack - but oftentimes the fascial tear is caused by too much strain and then you get this big hole, so stretching it is only going to actually make the tear bigger. This is where with expert bodywork we would actually want to pull the fascia back together, i.e. with plantar fasciitis or tendonitis, all of the issues of the connective tissue. Oftentimes when something feels tight, it's actually not tight because it's short and needs to get elongated, it's tight because it's too long and needs to get shortened.


When you're sitting for over 90 minutes you literally change state: you're made of organic matter and you're mostly water, and that water can change in viscosity from more fluid and liquid to more solid or more gel. When you've been sitting in a chair for a long time, your collagen and your fascia congeals and is slow to move.


Tensegrity. As mentioned before, the old world model of anatomy is not true. What is true is that your bones float in a myofascial network, and that myofascial matrix, your fascia, provides both structure and shape. It's global not local; any movement you make in your body affects every part of your body. Localized treatment, where we're just fixing your elbow or your knee and doing a few corrective exercises for that one area without taking into consideration the way it's affected your full body, is a little antiquated and is not going to generate the fast fluidity and freedom to move well.


collagen supplementation and bodywork:

  • Fascia does have collagen; a lot of your connective tissue is primarily collagen but there's also other aspects like interstitial fluid. So we want different levels of viscosity in different areas, things like tendons we would like to have some great type 1 collagen that make them really strong.

  • If you are supplementing with collagen, do it about an hour before you receive bodywork or exercise. Especially with bodywork, we're going to be opening the channels of connectivity and allowing the hydration or the nutrition that you drink in to expand out into some of those areas of your body that are dehydrated from lack of movement.

  • Just drinking water doesn't make you hydrated as where you most need hydration are the areas of your body that are disconnected from the fascial network because they're compressed and they haven't been moving. There's not a lot of vasculation and therefore not a lot of blood flow.


  • Foam rolling is great for fascia as well.
  • You can always do it at home, but it's useful to do that with an expert or take a class.
    • Why? For example, IT bands are actually already under a lot of compression and they kind of get glued to your lateral quads so a lot of people push firmer on their IT bands which is only exacerbating that compression. So as a bodyworker, for IT bands, we wouldn't work directly on it but above and below, using a technique to lift it up off the muscle to make space or decompressing.

adhesion in the fascia or muscle or both?

  • Both! It's in your muscle and your fascia. Not only does it go around the full muscle, but all the way through to every single cell.
  • If you took an orange and peeled it apart into the little segments and you popped a segment open, every piece of pulp would also be wrapped in fascia.

  • You can have an adhesion in different aspects of your muscular trigger points which are deep within a muscle and really small - more like a muscle fiber that's encased in fascia. Then there's also fascia outside of muscles, like you could have tight fascia around your whole bicep.

  • Adhesion can be in any part of your fascial matrix: your muscle or your fascia. When we’re talking about adhesion though, in terms of the location of it - whether it's in the belly of the muscle or in the external wrapping of the fascia - almost always that adhesion is in the facial connectivity of it.

Very active lifestyle: How does that affect fascia?

  • Great to have an active lifestyle, but to make sure you have healthy fascia you should be incorporating natural movement, i.e. squatting, kneeling, sitting on the floor. In other countries where they don't sit on chairs and rather sit on the floor, they do not have the hip degeneration issues that we have here in this country.
  • The more you can move the better so the first thing you could do is just change your home environment. Instead of having everything really close and handy, move things far apart and make it so you have to bend down or stand up, and change the way you sit.
  • Another good step is bodywork, yoga, pilates, or tai chi. These are some of the fast tracks to the benefits that you need to rehydrate your fascia. Bodywork is also going to work not only superficially but deep into the ground layer.

Percussive devices to help with bodywork?

  • A theragon, theracane, some kind of roller. All of these things are really useful, but if you're only pushing on where it hurts and you're not looking holistically at the full meridian, you're only going to be giving yourself relief of current systems.
  • But if you had a 60 or 90 minute session of bodywork, you'll be able to start to eliminate those chronic pains from your life so that, for example, you can be a runner who never has a low back pain. Human hands also provide a deeper feeling of depth that you can't feel as strongly with a foam roller.

Resources used:

  • Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers
  • Move Your DNA by Katie Bowman
  • Strolling Under the Skin by Dr. Jean Claude Gumerto
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