Meet the new best friend you’ll love to hate and hate to love.
You see it. The gym, the big box store, or in the pile of exercise gadgets gathering dust under your bed. 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!
First of all, why do you need foam roller exercises?
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.
Adding to that stress magically manifests itself in our bodies where, especially as women, our “stress containers,” are shoulders, lower back and hips. Lifestyle, hours-on-end technology, injuries, over-use and/or 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 exercise such as yoga, Pilates, stretching and flexibility exercises, and then decrease damage done through massage techniques, such as myofascial release, and the relief from myofascial tension is through foam roller exercises.
What is Myofascial Release?
“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.
What is fascia anyway?
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.
What’s a great do anytime anywhere way to do this? The foam roller.
But here’s the thing: To get the desired result, decreased pain in a tight muscle, it must be done effectively and correctly, slowly with a long pause. In the beginning of the hold, this may feel like an eternity! You will quickly learn why it’s earned the moniker ‘new best friend you’ll hate to love.’
Already rolling? Chances are high you’ve not only seen it done incorrectly, but that you 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 allows 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.
An easy 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.
According to the American Fitness Association/NASM:
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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