What is one piece of equipment with which many athletes have a love/hate relationship? Here are some hints: it is inexpensive, it’s portable, it can be used on any soft part of the body, and it’s highly beneficial for everyone. Drum roll please……the foam roller!
Soft connection tissue, known as fascia, connects muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels within the body. The myofascia system consists of fascia and muscles together. Various circumstances (overuse, misuse, lack of use) can cause the tissue to become “stuck.” This adhesion can cause restricted muscle movement, pain, soreness, and inflexibility. In order to reverse this effect within the body, lengthening and releasing tension in muscles and fascia is key.
Foam rollers offer many of the same benefits of sports massages, but without the ongoing cost. Foam rollers release tension in muscles and tendons by using personal body weight along the cylinder roller. Trigger point therapy and self-massage encourages blood flow and circulation to soft tissues while increasing flexibility and improving range of motion. A consistent foam-rolling routine can help prevent common exercise related injuries. Runners may be familiar with the infamous IT band pain. Using a foam roller to massage away facia build up can help prevent discomfort and keep runners going for miles! On the other end of the spectrum, for those individuals sitting at a desk all day, a full-body rolling routine encourages tension release and improved posture. Emphasis on hip flexors and lower back can counteract tightness from long hours spent sitting. For gym rats and health nuts, foam rolling can provide great benefits before and after a workout. Rolling prior to exercising can decrease muscle density, thus enhancing the warm-up phase; rolling after a workout encourages flexibility and improved recovery.
Don’t be alarmed if your first experience is a little unpleasant…it gets better! Here are a few key tips for successful rolling. Give yourself time, roll back and forth across painful areas for about a minute, spending extra time on knots and trigger points. Move slowly, working from the center of your body towards extremities. Focus on soft tissue and avoid rolling over boney areas of the body. Increase the duration as the body adapts to rolling, and drink plenty of water after each foam-rolling session.
One particular foam roller getting lots of attention is The Grid. The Grid Foam Roller features “green” technology and is constructed with less foam than traditional foam rollers. It is also designed to withstand heavy and repeated use without breaking down. Its compact size (13″ long and 5″ diameter) makes it an excellent travel companion. It’s a rejuvenating experience for the mind and the body, and best of all… you don’t have to leave a tip!