In college is when I was first introduced to the foam roller. Our strength and conditioning trainers used to make us foam roll our large muscle groups after lifting, running, and on our days off. As much as I hated it at the time - and still do sometimes - I began to quickly feel the benefits it had on my muscles. Now that I am training for my first half marathon, I am running more than I have in awhile, so needless to say I am using my muscles in ways they haven't been used in awhile. So, the dreaded foam roller is back in my life.
I am ashamed to admit that even though I know how to use the foam roller, and I know it helps my muscles...I had no idea why it helped or what the main purpose of using it really was. You guessed it - I decided to do some research and share it with you.
According to some, a foam roller is the poor man's massage therapist. It is a cylindrical piece of hard foam. The roller is used to apply long strokes to large muscle groups, such as calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, etc.
The self-massaging technique used while using the foam roller loosens stiff muscles and can keep fascia (connective tissue in muscles) loose. It is said that this tissue can influence flexibility and joint range of motion. Along with proper stretching, foam rolling can help prevent injury, keeping you healthy.
With a foam roller use your body weight to apply pressure to muscles. I think THIS is a descent video showing how to use a foam roller.
When & How Often?
There is no universal rule on how often to foam roll. Some people like to roll before a workout to loosen up muscles and add to their workout. I prefer after a workout. Not necessarily right after, but definitely the same day. It seems to help my muscles recover, especially after longer runs. Most often I tend to follow the process of run, stretch, roll, stretch. The preventive foam rolling routine takes only 10-15 minutes (or less). I usually take between 1 and 3 minutes on each muscle group (doing both sides). You can do it every day if you prefer, but you should aim to roll at least once or twice a week.
Do you use a foam roller?