Meet the new best friend you’ll love to hate and hate to love.
You’ve heard about it, and you’ve seen it at the gym, it’s the foam roller. The foam roller is now considered an integral part of health and fitness. But is it a part of yours? Here’s a primer from the experts to get you rolling the proper way, regardless of what you’ve seen in the gym!
Ever find yourself waking up and wondering where that new ache came from? Or, just feeling creaky or stiff navigating the stairs or getting into the car? Unfortunately, as we age, we lose muscular flexibility, which then dominos into a myriad of physical issues.
Stress magically manifests itself in our bodies, especially in our “stress containers,” which are our shoulders, lower back, and hips. Lifestyle, hours-on-end technology, over-use, and inactivity all play a part in our aches and pains.
To combat this, we must focus on increasing flexibility and decreasing muscle tension. Improve mobility through exercises such as yoga, Pilates, stretching, and flexibility exercises. After a workout, we should minimize the damage done through massage techniques, such as myofascial release, and the relief from myofascial tension is through foam roller exercises.
“An alternative medicine therapy that claims to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.” Wikipedia
Basically, by applying pressure to tight muscles and fascia, pain is relieved in your ‘trigger points.’ Since most of us don’t have a massage therapist to follow us around all day, enter Self-Myofascial Release, SMR, a form of slow and controlled self-massage.
Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. The goal is to de-excite the surrounding fascia and the painful muscle bundle.
But here’s the thing: To get the desired result, you must correctly use a foam roller, and hold the stretch. At the beginning of the hold, this may feel like an eternity! You will quickly learn why it’s earned the moniker’s best friend you’ll love to hate.
Are you already rolling? Chances are high you’ve only seen it done incorrectly, and are doing it wrong.
A great visual to understand is to imagine a tight, sore muscle spindle or bundle as an upset aggravated toddler. An aggressive reaction (fast or intense rolling) is NOT going to calm the situation. The goal is to de-excite; a calm, gentle demeanor and slow touch allow calming to begin.
CAUTION: Do not roll prior to consulting your physician if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or varicose veins, as such health issues could worsen.
A comfortable place to begin and to practice core stability is on the calf muscle. Workouts and high heels do a number on us, and your calves will thank you for it.
This is one relationship, although contentious at times, you will want to keep!
Primer from an expert: National Academy of Sports Medicine
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