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The joys (and pains) of foam rolling

The recent sensation known as foam rolling has certainly made the rounds. I can understand the hype. Four years ago I ran my first half-marathon. Luckily I had a foam roller on hand because the 13.1 miles on the trail, during a hail and rain storm, did some damage to my body. With little outdoor training I could have seriously been at risk to a sports injury. To this day, I use foam rolling in my workout routine both warming up and cooling down.

Foam rolling, or myofascial release,  is basically a self-massage releasing tight muscles and fascia buildup. Using your own body weight, the foam roller stretches muscle fibers, tissues, and tendons. Rolling your body allows the muscles to recover and releases tight trigger points. Foam rolling increases blood flow and circulation, breaks down knots in muscles, and reduces pain. You should foam roll every day to help relieve stress, increase flexibility, and prevent common injuries. Stretching just isn’t enough if you want to improve your health and overall musculature.

Before you get started, here are a few suggestions to make the experience worth repeating. Make sure you drink plenty of water before to keep your tissues hydrated. Keep the movements slow and concentrated, especially on trigger points. Remember to take deep breaths, as there may be some pain. Move in multiple directions, front to back and side to side. Use the foam roll in your warm ups and cool downs. Lastly, try and use it daily.

There are many varieties of foam rollers on the market. I have seen people use tennis balls, golf balls, and even an actual rolling pin from the kitchen to substitute a foam roller. For beginners, aim to find a softer foam roll, about 36-inches. I purchased my foam roll from Amazon for a great price, but it has the highest density so may be too hard to start with. To begin, try and roll from your shoulders to your mid-back. From there you can move to your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, IT bands, and calves. Experiment and have fun.

I have seen and felt the benefits from regular foam rolling. I have improved my posture, flexibility, range of motion, and my recovery time from runs has never been better. Using the foam roller also has secondary benefits by strengthening your core. Make foam rolling part of your exercise routine and I can promise you won’t regret it.

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