• James Cappola

Why the autonomic nervous system is more important than any foam rolling or warm up

Ok.. Before you think I am going to get all "sciency" on you.. Don't worry! I'm going to break this down in a manner that is easy to retain and hopefully useful when it comes to your training.

First off:

Parasympathetic system- Rest and Digest

Sympathetic system- Fight or flight

Getting to know the inner workings of these two systems is crucial to your overall performance and recovery. Let's take a look at how we use our parasympathetic system.

Being that P-sympathetic is rest and digest.. You need to prioritize your sleep patterns, pre and post workout meal and hydration.

Your pre workout meal is going to increase blood flow to the stomach and small/large intestine, liver and pancreas, increased salvation gland activity ,Your heart and respiratory rate slows down and you have decreased blood flow to skeletal muscle. This is what facilitates digestion and absorption of our meal.

Whats the kicker?

When you eat TOO much.. You can be stuck in a p-sympathetic state when you get to the gym. After a huge feast do you want to work out? No! You want to put on stretchy pants and go pass out on the couch. So in this case, 1 banana and a handful of nuts before a workout is better than a giant burrito. If you really want a bigger meal, then remember.. The bigger the meal- The more time you need before your workout.

What does this all mean?

Ill tell you! Your body perceives stress in different ways. When your sympathetic system is turned on, your body is going to transfer all of its energy to its brain, heart and muscles to take care of your task at hand. From running out of a burning building to starting your workout..This is the bread and butter that can either save your life, or give you the best results. Your body is comprised of neurotransmitters and hormones. One neurotransmitter in particular is acetycholine. Think of this as a "signal booster" to carry the action potential to your muscles.A hormone called Norepinephrine increases blood flow to the necessary muscles at hand while restricting blood flow to let's say your gut. Sorry for the science talk!

How does this affect me?

If you leave the gym and you have a mountain of bills, fighting with your spouse, having an important meeting first thing in the morning which is causing 0 hours of sleep... Your body is already going through massive stress. Just like you can't magically turn off the parasympathetic system if you have a big meal.. You HAVE to take care of your stress as soon as possible. At this point, any foam rolling/stretching or pre activity warm up will just be going through the motions. When it's time for you to rest, your throwing parts of your body into overdrive while depriving others of blood and oxygen.. You ever get under a squat bar and you just feel like.. "Man, this is super heavy today" Or you do 2 sets and can't bring yourself to do your usual 5? This is due to poor recovery and not having control of your autonomic nervous system. The over abundance of your sympathetic system can result in high blood pressure, digestive problems and suppression of your immune system.

What now?

1. Always have a preworkout meal and make sure your rest/digest period is long enough before your workout.

2. Find what enhances your sympathetic system during your workout- Could be music, med ball slams, box jumps etc.. Just get yourself into that fight or flight mentality and just worry about the task at hand

3. Know when your workout is done and how to bring yourself back down to a resting state. Eat, digest, calm down.

4. Realize that this is one of the BIGGEST factors inhibiting your performance and know that corrective exercises will NOT fix it

Where can I find out more?

If you can't shake this sluggish feeling during your workouts, or if you feel like you are not seeing the results you want...Please feel free to email me and let's talk about it!



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