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  • Writer's pictureJessy

Why You Need to Understand Progressive AND Regressive Loading

I have so many students (and I have done this myself as well) who believe that they have a bad knee, a cranky low back, computer neck or simply that aging means a less functional body.


I call bullshit.


I think that each and every one of us has a huge capacity to improve the condition of our body...but we just don't know how.


Since my recent in-depth learnings about tissue mechanics from Jules Mitchell over the past year, I have been stewing about the body limitations that plague us humans and I think that, for many reasons, we have given our power over too much to experts.


We go to a massage therapist, osteopath or chiropractor and they fix us...by no means is this saying that they don't have a crucial role in healthcare, but the relationship requires minimal commitment other than the appointment time from the patient.


They fix us, we do nothing, we learn nothing, we continue to move our body as we have always, the problem comes back and the loop restarts. Of course there are some great healthcare practitioners who knows this and give clients homework, but mostly this is the loop.


So how do we take responsibility for our own body? How do we do what will help our achy bodies?


We apply the concepts of progressive and regressive load. If you're into fitness, you may have heard lots about progressive overload, but try to think of overload as more like a spectrum.


If you use a tissue, in a specific way, it gets stronger in that specific movement, but it's not a guarantee to carry over to other positions.


Your tissues (muscles/tendons/ligaments) might be underloaded. Underloaded means that it the tissue is not able to tolerate stress in the form of a stretch or a strength. If you have an injury, and favour a tissue, it will become underloaded. If you move rarely in a specific way, your tissues won't know how to load in that position. The map from the brain gets foggy.


Move it or lose it is completely accurate.


If downward dog hurts your 'fill in body part here' and you stop doing it in class, you will not build any capacity to do it and fulfil your belief that you can't do the pose.


This does not mean that you should move in a way that causes your body pain. Definitely no, but this is where the overload part comes in.


Instead of shaming yourself for it, or skipping it, or whatever you currently do. Tell yourself that all the pain means is that your tissue is not currently able to handle that level of load.


Next, start figuring out how to decrease the load and move through the range of motion you want to do.


You need to spend little time being creative to figure out your place on the load spectrum. To find where the exact right difficulty level is, to where the movement is challenging, but possible in full range of motion, without pain, AND where you have control over the movement without excess tension in the body or breath changes occur.


There are lots great online and free resources online to get ideas from like Ben Patrick, who goes by Knees Over Toes Guy, Venus Lau, Mark Bell, Kelley Starrett and Squat University's Aaron Horschig to name just a few.


Start loading your tissues a little lighter than the thing you want to be able to do would, in the same way that thing would and you will find big improvements.


If you prefer to be supported on a journey out of pain, there is no shame in that. Having a good practitioner to work with is fabulous at improving both the speed and quality of your results.


I believe the key is to find a practitioner who works right beside you. They include you in the process. They help you to feel your body. Choose someone you feel aligned with, someone you feel you can trust.


I look for clients who are motivated to learn about their body and willing to slow down and really feel what is going on. I love to help people get out of pain and back to what they love to do. It's a process of going back to basics and building a strong foundation, then adding on until you are able to do all of the things you want to do with your body.


You don't need to live in pain, but you do need to do something about it if you want things to change. Skipping what hurts your body is a great option in a class environment, but if you want to rebuild your capacity to be able to do what you want to do, without pain, you need to regress the load and slowly build back to where you were before injury.



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