With all the time and effort that you put into exercising, it only makes sense that you put as much care into your muscles before and after your workouts as well!
Foam Rolling aka Self-Myofascial Release is one way that you can ensure optimal muscle performance and attend to those troublesome aches and pains that get in the way of that performance. If exercising is your priority foam rolling should be a priority as well. When utilized together, you can perform at your best!
What is Foam Rolling?
Simply put, Foam Rolling (SMR), is a form of self-massage with gentle force that helps roll out tightness and knots in your muscles using a foam roller.
What are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?
- lengthens and stretches muscles
- improves circulation
- relaxes muscle
- relieves tension/tightness
- increases range of motion, flexibility
- improves muscle imbalances
- reduces chance of injury
Do I Really Need to Foam Roll?
Absolutely! Muscles that are tight do not have full range of motion and when movement is restricted, this can lead to injury, fatigue and poor performance. Plus, it's like a deep-tissue massage- and you get to focus on exactly the right spots, for your desired amount of time. (And for as little as $10, foam rollers are absolutely worth the investment.)
How to use Foam Roller
- Position yourself so that the desired muscle group is in direct contact with the foam roller (see photos for example)
- Ensure that your body weight is resting on specific muscle group
- Slowly roll your body along the roller until you feel a point of tightness/discomfort (trigger point)
- Pause and hold for 15-45 sec so that point of tightness/discomfort is targeted. Tension should begin to be released from point.
- Continue rolling and repeat steps as needed.
Important Things to Note when Foam Rolling:
- In addition to rolling out trigger points, you can use the roller to roll or knead out the whole muscle with continuous movement (as opposed to stopping at specific areas)
- You can utilize Foam Rolling before a workout as a warm-up, or after a workout as a cool-down: Target the specific areas that you will be working on/have worked on during your session (Ex: After completing a lower body workout using squats and lunges, roll out glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings)
- Rolling out after strength training sessions or even cardio (i.e. a long run) will help ease soreness in the following days
What happens to the Muscles Being Rolled Out?
Surrounding your muscles is connective tissue (fascia). This connective tissue can become tight due to stressors such as repetitive motion or exercise. Stress on the connective tissue causes inflammation and leads to growth of soft tissue adhesions, otherwise known as knots. These soft tissue adhesions inhibit muscular function. When your muscles aren't functioning properly, this negatively affects your form and strength, which of course can lead to injury.
However, during SMR, receptors called muscle spindles are stimulated, causing the muscle to contract- but with extended pressure on the muscles, another receptor, the Golgi Tendon Complex, senses the tension and relaxes the muscle fibers. This relaxation of muscles fibers decreases pain and increases circulation, which in turn allows the body to recover more effectively. When you roll out your muscles, the connective tissue lengthens and stretches (Imagine working with clay; What's more malleable? A hard clump that hasn't been touched or a portion that has been kneaded and stretched?) Muscles need to be kneaded to increase their flexibility, elasticity and range of motion.
Why Foam Rolling So Important
To stay pain-free! Exercising can be hard enough as it is. Nobody should have to suffer with pain that can be eased through a method as simple as SMR. This is a form of self-therapy that helps you perform at your best, and feel good while doing it! Not only is it healing, but it contributes to health maintenance as well.
With a pain-free body, exercise can be how it is supposed to be.... Enjoyable!
Just like anything with your health, whether it's eating clean, exercising regularly, drinking enough water...make it a PRIORITY.
Recommended Self-Therapeutic Techniques
- Stretch every day. Pick your favorite time of day and set aside, 2, 4 or even 10 minutes for some stretching. Choose 1-2 stretches, and for the allotted time, hold the stretch and open up the body so that muscles can fully relax. Remember to breathe deeply.
- Get a massage at least once a month: If you have an athletic lifestyle or exercise at least 3 times per week, make sure to get a massage at least monthly. This is another way to relax your muscles to allow for optimal recovery and injury prevention.
- Take an Epsom salt bath. Not only is it relaxing and stress-reducing, but it helps decrease inflammation and helps muscles and nerves with optimal functioning.
- Be mindful of your posture. Make sure to be aware of your posture throughout the day. Whether sitting or standing, mindfulness will help you to adjust your stance to make sure you are standing tall, your spine is aligned, and anything else needed. Good posture=Good health.
- What else makes you feel refreshed physically AND mentally? Make a list and refer to it often. Your body will thank you and you will see the difference in your workouts!