Showing your muscles some love
I'm not talking about posing Mr or Mrs World style in front of your mirror here! So, how might we love our muscles I hear you ask. Well, in addition to movement, our skeletal muscles (those that attach to the skeleton) are responsible for maintaining our posture, stabilising the skeleton, generating heat and maintaining body temperature. A number of things are needed to help them function properly.
Adequate hydration helps to prevent muscle cramps, maintain muscle strength and prevents the development of adhesions which can lead to painful trigger points in the muscle. A nourishing diet helps to fuel muscles, providing them with the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals they need in order to perform, grow and repair. For example, protein is needed for muscle repair, magnesium is vital for reducing muscle fatigue and cramps and calcium is needed for muscle contraction.
Muscles also need regular exercise to to maintain their strength, as strong muscles are better able to move the body and support the joints. This is particularly important as we age. Muscles that aren't used can become deactivated or atrophied - getting weaker and smaller. This can lead to muscle imbalance and injury as the body tries to compensate and overloads other muscles and joints. Muscles that are tight or short need to be stretched to maintain flexibility, range of movement and minimise the chance of injury. Tense muscles can have restricted blood flow which also contributes to impaired functioning.
I would also add that using techniques such as mindfulness, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation - whatever of these appeals to you, can be beneficial for helping to relax the mind which in turn has positive spin-offs for muscle health through reducing muscle tension. As a freediver, I use meditation and progressive muscle relaxation in both my pre-performance routine and during performance and have found these techniques very helpful for reducing muscle tension in a sport where you can't afford to waste oxygen on tensing muscles. Adequate sleep is also important as muscles also need rest in order to repair.
So, give your muscles the love they deserve by helping them function as best as they can. In turn, they will reward you by helping your body to perform optimally - at work, sport and home.