Endurance athletes are on a continuous quest to find balance in their training as well as with their bodies. Athletes push themselves to train hard, eat well and improve without injury and setbacks. But why do so many athletes work so hard only to suffer overuse injuries, strains or nagging pains that keep coming back to haunt them? Isn't there a way for athletes to improve consistently while maintaining a healthy balance of endurance, strength, flexibility and range of motion?
As a triathlete, I set out to find answers to these questions and to examine how fellow endurance athletes can continue to push their limits and move beyond nagging aches and pains without so much time off for recovery. In my quest to find a better balance in my training plan, I took my questions to Josh Malpass, a Certified Rolfer™ and kinesiotherapist based in Irvine, California. In addition to his busy Rolfing® practice, Malpass is an Ironman triathlete and ultramarathon runner. Malpass believes that Rolfing® is the key to injury prevention, rehabilitation, performance enhancement and lifelong well-being achieved through balance in the body.
How does it work? Malpass explains that Rolfing® improves range of motion by breaking down scar tissue, tension and old holding patterns. It is often the missing link for athletes who have reached a plateau in their performance or who are plagued with nagging injuries. Unlike massage, which works the muscle, Rolfing® works with the three-dimensional network of connective tissue in the body called fascia. Connective tissue consists of tendons and ligaments in the joints as well as the casing that surrounds each muscle fiber and covers every muscle in the body. It is the web that holds the body in alignment dictating our posture, flexibility and movement patterns.
Athletes put their bodies through rigorous, repetitive motions that can pull the web of fascia out of alignment causing joints (knees, ankles, back, neck, shoulders) to gradually tighten and build up scar tissue. This increased tension and strain can lead to pain, stiffness, tendonitis, lack of flexibility, increased injury and deceased performance. Rolfing® combats these effects by releasing the fascia surrounding tight muscles, lengthening tight tendons, breaking down scar tissue and increasing flexibility and range of motion. Rolfing® rebalances the web of fascia around joints such as ankles, knees and hips that are often sources of pain and discomfort.
Malpass discovered Rolfing® as a means of recovery from injuries incurred in his teens and 20s. Prior to the Rolfing® Ten Series, he found that as he ran and biked, old injuries surfaced and kept him from competing. After receiving Rolfing®, his range of motion improved, his flexibility increased, and he was able to run faster and push himself without pain.
Presently, Malpass sees many triathletes, marathon runners, professional cyclists and surfers.
"I love working with athletes because they push the limits of their bodies so I can really see the results.," Malpass said. "With the increase in flexibility and range of motion they gain from Rolfing®, so many athletes see their performance enhanced and their potential goes through the roof. Once they can move without pain and tension, they can do things they never thought were possible. It is very exciting to take part in this process"
Most people opt to receive the Rolfing® Ten Series, which is like a "tune up" or "extreme makeover" for your entire body. Every session is roughly 75 minutes and most people opt to receive one session per week for 10 weeks. This 10-session process restructures the body in segments, aiming for optimal flexibility and range of motion by balancing the body from front to back, side to side, top to bottom until complete integration is achieved. Each session builds upon the last and prepares the body for the next, integrating movement education to encourage long-term change and reduce the occurrence of future injury. Although 10 sessions is recommended, most people experience very positive results after just one session.