Foam Roll: It Could Save Your Life

by TaylorR

Okay, it may not safe your life… but it can definitely improve it!

Why is it that the simplest of things that can help improve our lives (and our bodies) are the ones that we often neglect the most?

I’m just as guilty as the next person…

ashton-rolling

I know… I know…

I preach all the time how important it is to warm-up, cool-down and stretch, yet I find myself skipping through them on a regular basis too.

Well, at least the old me did.

Over the past month, I have made it a priority to actually spend a few extra minutes most days working to improve my body through the little things.

Let me share a lil’story with you…

The Untouchable Legs

About a month ago, I realized my body was way out of whack. I knew I was tight, but I just wasn’t aware of how tight.

You know when you tickle yourself, it just isn’t that ticklish? Well, that’s why I didn’t realize how messed up my body was because to my own touch, it didn’t feel that bad.

I’ve mentioned my tight calves before, how they were likely the cause of my stress fracture…

Well, I thought they were getting better. I thought they just magically loosened up because my running legs have felt great lately!

That was until one Friday evening when Dan and I were watching a movie. He started to massage my feet (the best foot rubber ever) then slowly moved up to my calves.

OMG.

1-tight

You would have thought he stabbed me with a knife at how quickly I jumped. The hair on my head stood up on end and everything.

There may have even been a few tears as he forced me to accept his brutal massage.

Yes, I received a nice lecture during all of this on the importance of taking care of my body now before another injury happened.

Oh, the love of a spouse. Sometimes they can seem like parents, right? But that’s only because they have our best interest at heart.

Knee Pain, Back Pain, Hip Pain… OH MY!

The story doesn’t end with me.

Over the years of being a trainer, I’ve heard dozens of clients complain of muscle and joint pain.

Of course, all assuming they have some sort of underlining condition like poor cartilage, arthritis, pulled muscles, disc displacement, ACL issues…

This list of injuries can go on and on.

Of course I am not a doctor, and do not diagnose aches and pains, I can try to help my clients prevent them from happening in the first place.

And that my friends, is where self myofascial release comes in.

You see, tight muscles don’t just slow you down and make getting out of bed a longer process. They can cause a lot more damage than you can imagine.

In one study, it was discovered that tight muscles lead to almost half of soccer injuries in athletes… if not more than half.

What I think is also important to bring up before moving into the actual process, is that having pain or tightness in one area doesn’t mean that that is where the problem is stemming from as the body is linked together in an amazing web of fascia links muscles, tendons, ligaments (all soft tissue) together to work as a whole.

A kink in one part of the body can cause problems in a completely different part of the body (Source!

Don’t believe me? For a lot of people suffering with knee pain, it isn’t the knee at all, the pain could be the side affect of a tight glute or IT-Band.

According to Dr. John Barnes (one of the fathers of modern SMFR)…

“The Fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and organ of the body, all the way down to the cellular level. Therefore, malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, posture, or inflammation can create a binding down of the fascia, result in abnormal pressure on the nerves, muscles, bones or organs. This can create pain or malfunction throughout the body, sometimes with bizarre side effects and seemingly unrelated symptoms, not always following the dermatomal zones.”

Crazy, right?

But of course the natural tendency is to treat the site of pain, instead of trying to discover the true source of it so that the pain isn’t only relieved but the issue is healed completely!

The Body Isn’t Multi-Parted

1-kin-chain

Source

I really don’t want to bore you with anatomy jargon…

Oh you won’t mind?

Okay then…

You see the body works together to form what’s called the kinetic chain… the soft tissue system (muscle, tendons, ligaments and fascia), articular system (joints) and nervous system all work to allow you to move, lift, sit-down, stand-up… you get it.

If something is off with one part of the chain, the entire chain can get off course increasing, significantly, risk of injury.

I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to see that the easiest place to damage is the soft tissue system… right?

I mean just turning around too fast can lead to a kink in your neck, or getting up too quickly can lead to a pulled back muscle.

1outofshape1

And if you could help keep your tissue lose and knot free in order to prevent the risk of future injuries, wouldn’t you?

Of course you say yes now, but would you really?

After all, I didn’t I waited until an injury put me on the sideline to realize that I’m not immune to injuries. That “it won’t happen to me” jargon was always playing through my head.

But it did happen to me, and it can happen to you too.

And that’s where myofascial release comes in…

What Is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial release is the best injury prevention tool we have control over… at least in my eyes.

It’s the act of using something like a foam roller or a Super Nova (my personal favorite) to place direct pressure on soft tissue to help work out knots and other pressures.

Just what does that mean for you?

Here are a few benefits of myofascial release:
  • Corrects Muscular Embalances
  • Improves joint range of motion (for a long time this was in question, however studies have not been done that proves self-myofascial release does indeed improve ROM and can significantly decrease risk of injury!)
  • Improve headaches and sleep quality <— something we can all work to improve!
  • Relieve muscle and joint soreness
  • Improve nureromuscular efficiency (the way your brain talks to your muscles
  • Improve posture
  • Increase recovery time due to increased blood flow to muscles
  • Decrease risk of injuries and pain!

I would say that should be plenty of reasons to grab a foam roller and spend just 5 minutes most days of the week applying pressure to your muscles.

Don’t you agree?

What To Use?

There are many different types of self-myofascial apparatuses available…

Foam Rollers

foamrollershot

Foam rollers are the most accessible, as you can find them for pretty much nothing at Walmart or Target. You can even make your own by grabbing a rolling pin or tennis ball.

In our home, we fight over this…

The Super Nova from RogueFitness.

It’s not cheap ($40), but I will tell you it was worth every single penny we spent!

Dan and I literally fight over it. And when I did the Palmetto 200 Relay, it was the much sought over piece of equipment in our van. Everyone wanted to take a turn.

Sticks

Aside from the two listed above, sticks are also popular, especially among runners.

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What works best for you really comes down to personal preference. I love the large foam roller and the ball… the stick I don’t feel is able to give me (personally) enough direct pressure to the kinks in my soft tissue.

Now that we know what to use…

How To Do Myofascial Release

You basically torture yourself for a few moments by putting as much pressure on your chosen apparatus and your “kinks” as possible.

It hurts, in a “oh hell this hurts but feels so good” kind of way. When you’re done, it’s an immediately release.

Here’s a video I put together this past winter, and I have no idea why I waited so long to share it… Shameful.

  1. You want to make sure to roll over the entire length of the muscle, so you would roll the entire area, for 20-30 seconds before stopping directly on the kinks for a good 30-60 seconds.
  2. Make sure to breath through the pressure. This helps to keep as relaxed as possible, doing so will help the knot to actually loosen up. And to warn you, you have to make a conscious effort at times to do this. But I promise, it makes a huge difference.
  3. Don’t roll your joints. It hurts, and it’s not necessary. You can roll around them, but avoid putting direct pressure on them from the roller/ball/stick.
  4. Do it multiple times per week, even if nothing feels tights. It’s taking preventative measures to avoid future aches/pains/

And finally…

You might be wondering:

What Should I Roll Out?

The answer… everything.

But that doesn’t really help, so here are the most common areas to concentrate on:

  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • IT Band <— Great info on the IT Band
  • Back (lower and upper)
  • Calves
  • Latissimus

Quite the list right?

I promise, it doesn’t take a long time to hit these zones up, and by having this as a check list you can make sure not to miss out on anything!

We use our Super Nova while we are sitting on the couch at night, it doesn’t affect our schedule at all!

Seriously… this is the #1 thing I try to stress to my classes and clients. Yet so many avoid doing it. Don’t! Do it!! You might be surprised at how amazing you feel after just a few sessions.

I can’t tell you how great it feels to be able to have Dan touch my calves lately without wanting to scream bloody murder. My legs are recovering faster which allows me to train harder and get stronger!

So, be honest…

Do you stretch or foam roll?

 

  • http://abs-of-steel.com Abi@AbsofSteel

    This post was a perfectly timed reminder that I need to get back to foam rolling regularly. It’s amazing how easy it is to get lazy about it but it’s something that really helps me feel better after a tough workout.

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      I know it’s so easy to just push it aside and forget about it! But then when I do it I am always asking why I don’t do it more often! It makes every workout feel better!

  • http://burpeesforbreakfast.com Jen

    perfect! i had a heavy lifting day yesterday after a few weeks off. i taught bootcamp from 5-7am this morning and i was SO SORE. i’ve been borrowing my dad’s roller, but now that he has it, i seriously might need to go buy one tonight! :)

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      Wow! Way to go on the training! Def go claim one for yourself!

  • http://www.TheTinyTerror.com Amy Lauren

    I don’t use my foam roller nearly as much as I should, but I definitely use it more since getting injured- same with my stick massager! I finally went back to BodyFlow class on Sunday, and it’s a great cross training workout and includes yoga, pilates, and tai chi. I think the key for me is to keep my foam roller and stick massager by the TV because it’s a good thing to do in the evenings when we’re just relaxing .

    Great job at the track today too! I’m definitely up for the earlier time as well, since I usually have meetings on Tuesdays so 6:00-6:15 works well for me.

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      Great job to you today too! You’re killing it lately! I finally felt like I had my old running legs back this morning, felt great!

  • http://herheartlandsoul.com Erin @ Her Heartland Soul

    Great post! I have a Stick and love it but have been bad about using it lately! I need to get back to it!

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      Thanks Erin!

  • http://wheres-the-beach.blogspot.com/ Heather (Where’s the Beach)

    I’m a firm believer in rolling! We actually invested in a Triggerpoint therapy kit for hips and back so it has a smaller sized roller for ITBand then a special one for calves, also balls for feet and piriformis/glute area. We later invested in the Grid (larger roller). I had issues with plantar fasciitis as well as piriformis syndrome – once I finally started rolling out my calves, my PF is almost non-existent. Still working on the glutes! Great post!

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      Oh, I need to check out the kit! Where did you get it?

  • Eveliz

    Both! My job offers yoga classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I do my best to attend them.

    I don’t foam roll as often as I should but they have helped my shin muscles so much! It’s always my go to when yoga doesn’t relieve some of the tightness.

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      That’s awesome that your job has fitness classes, I am sure it helps a ton! How much easier can you get after all!

  • http://paleorunningmomma.com Michele @ paleorunningmomma

    This is such a great comprehensive and informative post! I’ve been putting off foam rolling but with marathon training now I need to prioritize. Thanks!

  • http://www.cottercrunch.com lindsay

    my friend is a MFR therapist. I swear by her and foam rolling, although I NEVER want to do them.

  • http://www.frenchinspirationblog.com Karen – Fit in France

    I try to stretch because I have had IT band issues in the past, but probably not as regularly as I should. I should foam roll more, but don’t. Your post is a great reminder of all the benefits. And you are right, that moment of “pain but it feels so good ” is wonderful as I know it is helping my body.

  • http://cookingfortwo.us Stefanie

    I am guilty of not stretching after a workout and end up with tight muscles later! However my hip flexors were SO tight a few months ago I got desperate and started foam rolling and was reliefed from the constant ache. (I sit at a desk ALLLLLLLLL day.) I can definitely tell when I’ve been neglecting them because the pain returns with vengeance!

    • http://www.fitwomensweekly.com TaylorR

      Oh yes, the joys of sitting at a desk! Sometimes I get so tired of my desk chair I grab my computer and sit on the floor!

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