The basics of foam rolling | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


There have been times that my roommates walk into the house only to hear *yours truly* uttering some astonishingly remarkable colorful language as I foam roll myself after a workout. I explain that, no, I am in fact not severely injured nor in need of assistance – I’m just stretching out my muscles. With as much of a reassuring smile as I can manage while rolling my IT band (which always really makes me want to cry), I insist that I am doing myself a favor.

Now that I’ve scared you away from foam rolling, let’s talk about what exactly it is and why the discomfort isn’t really a bad thing. *And it’s probably only really uncomfortable for me because of my previous injuries…..and because I don’t do it enough.*

A foam roller is, literally, a dense cylinder of foam. Genius. And now this person is probably a millionaire. Because of foam. But I digress…

Foam rolling aids in self-myofascial release, which means self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. There are several methods to do this, including with a tennis ball or your own hands. Applying pressure to certain points on the body can help in the recovery of muscles and returning to normal function, meaning muscles are elastic and healthy (not tight and overly sore). Releasing trigger points and working out muscles can improve range of motion, decrease pain with movement, and enhance performance.

In researching for this post, I stumbled across a very nice analogy from comparing stretching and foam rolling:

Utilizing stretching alone is not always enough to release muscles tightness, which is why foam rollers have thrived on the mass market. Imagine a bungee cord with a knot tied into it and then envision stretching the cord. This creates tension, stretching the unknotted portion of the muscle and the attachment points. The knot, however, has remained unaltered. Foam rolling can assist in breaking up these muscle knots, resuming normal blood flow and function. The goal to any corrective or recovery technique is to get you back to the point of normal functioning, as if nothing was ever wrong.

There is a right and a wrong way to foam roll. It should not be overly painful. There’s no crying in foam rolling. Simply apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your body weight. This can sometimes put in you in entertainingly awkward positions. Go with it. Roll slowly – no more than 1 inch per second. If you find a tight or painful area, keep pressure applied for several seconds and try to relax. Breathe. If an area is too painful, try rolling the areas around it to loosen the muscle group up. Discomfort and pain should lessen as you use the roller. If you’re concerned about a particular area, consult your doctor.

DO NOT roll over a joint or bone. Or your lower back. And be mindful of your upper spine/neck as these areas are sensitive and delicate.

Foam rolling can be done before or after a workout and on rest days. It can really be done any time a muscle or muscle group feels tight.

Because foam rolling will release toxins (just like getting a massage), make sure to drink plenty of water to flush your system. Try to avoid over rolling muscles – give them at least a 24 to 48 hour break before you roll them again.

{SOUND OFF} Do you foam roll? What’s your take on it?

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