Mr. Foam Roller – where have you been all my life??
Finally, I am up with the times; I bought a foam roller. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a foam roller is a cylindrical piece of foam used for self-massage (self-myofascial release) to release muscle tension. In other words, a handy device to help your muscles ‘chill-out’ pre and post workout.
Muscles can tighten during a workout, after a workout, and even when you go without working out for a prolonged time, which is why we stretch; to lengthen the muscle fibers and restore them to a healthy state. When you’re tight, you’re more prone to injury, that’s why stretching both dynamic and static is a must, especially as you age. Foam rolling adds yet another positive step to the stretching equation; it is the equivalent of getting a deep tissue massage, but you can do it yourself. It is an excellent way to increase flexibility by breaking up knots (adhesions) within the muscle using pressure which helps the muscles relax. When the muscles relax they are more elastic and that means they are healthier.
Foam rolling is especially effective for stretching quads, IT Band (iliotibial band – side of leg), piriformis (gluteal region), hamstring, calf, and upper back. Lower back, joints, and bone in particular, should not be rolled. When using a foam roller, the most important thing to know is to go slow. Remember, your muscles are presumably tight; you can’t just pound them into submission. The point is to get the blood flowing and break up the knots, so ‘slow your roll’ and when you find an area that needs even more attention, hold that position for up to thirty seconds. It’s not just about mindlessly rolling; you need to feel those particular spots your body is telling you to focus on. Admittedly, I’ve only been using the roller after my workout; guess what I learned…pre-workout is just as important, so I need to change my ways.
Like stretching, using the foam roller can be uncomfortable at first, but it should not cause unbearable pain. What you should find is that you feel better as time goes on. That is exactly what I’ve found; my hamstrings and It bands are more flexible now; what a relief. How do I know…because when I static stretch I am more flexible and I have less pain. You really need to experiment with the roller; find what positions work for you, and if you feel like a fish out of water when you first start, no worries, they don’t call it a roller for nothing – you’re going to be a bit off-balance until you get the hang of it. You don’t have to spend long, so do it daily and you’ll see results. It’s so worth the extra few minutes in my workout. Watch a video on how to use a foam roller if you question your methodology (link below), and if you’re really concerned, of course, speak with your doctor.
There are many types of foam rollers, do some research to find the right one for you (link below). If that’s too much to think about, you really can’t go wrong with a straight-forward simple roller, which you can find online or at your closest sporting goods store. I bought a longer size because I wanted the versatility to move on the roller and not be confined. I exercise at home, so roller length is not a problem, but if you are concerned with lugging it to the gym, a shorter roller may work better for you.
Most importantly, know your comfort level. The point is to relieve pain, not cause it. Be careful and happy rolling.
Types of rollers-