Hydration and Flexibilty

By: Nick Lape CPT

Every one of us at one point has spent time in a science class of some kind. Which means we have all heard the fact that our bodies are made up of at least 70% water. We have water in our muscles, our connective tissues, our brain, and even our blood. That means our hydration status can affect all of these things. Headaches, fatigue, “brain fog,” are all side effects of dehydration. But, did you know that being chronically dehydrated can change our flexibility? Think of a sponge, when it doesn’t have water, it becomes hard, dried out, and doesn’t move well at all. Add water to it and guess what, it is now pliable, soft and absorbent. This is how our muscles react with water as well.

Recently I had the fortune of speaking with a licensed massage therapist, Johanna Mertensmeyer, about what it feels like when people are dehydrated. As a massage therapist, she explained to me that she can actually feel when a muscle has become a “dried sponge.” The muscle doesn’t move; it can’t release and remains ‘knotted’ or unworkable. She compares this to “massaging a brick wall.” Johanna, stated that these people more often than not, have major stress in their lives and an inability to relax.

Johanna’s advice to her clients is to drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day. Obviously, if you are more active you will need more fluids than if you aren’t an active person to replenish what you lose in sweat. A good way to tell if you are hydrated is by the color of your urine. A light yellow to clear color means you are hydrated, If it is dark yellow, you need more fluid. Johanna also likes to tell her clients to spend time breathing or even meditating during their day because the more water and better oxygen levels your body has, the more malleable your body can become bother during a massage session as well as a training session.

Now, what does this mean for your workouts. What happens if you are chronically dehydrated? I’ll bring you back to the sponge example. If you fail to hydrate properly, you “dry up.” Muscles fail to work. This has the possibility to result in you becoming very inflexible or immobile, somewhat like a dry sponge. And then comes the slippery slope of movement compensations. Because your muscles can’t move through a proper range of motion, with time these issues can only become worse.

We get so many questions about how water can truly effect someone’s workout and lifestyle. A quote from Johanna provides a simple answer, “Water has a similar effect on a plant that it has on a person; when you drink the proper amount, you awaken. Your body moves better and you just feel better.” It’s true. Our bodies aren’t made up of all of this water for no reason. It’s a true sign that without water and proper hydration with it, we can become stiff, immovable people. Once that begins to happen, we become the sponge I mentioned earlier, dried out and stiff. Stay hydrated! Your body needs it!!