Why Foam Rolling is Our Favorite Recovery Tool
Are you feeling a bit stiff and sore after your extra hard workouts? Do you spend a lot of time sitting, or are you finally ready to get back to the gym after taking some rest? Get ready to reduce soreness, increase flexibility, and eliminate muscle knots with our favourite recovery tool, foam rolling.
What is foam rolling
Foam rolling is a technique that uses bodyweight pressure against a firm cylinder to loosen tight fascia. Fascia is a web of connective tissue throughout the body that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fibre and muscle in place. Do you know the very thin layer covering the meat of a raw chicken breast? That is fascia.
Benefits of foam rolling
There are many reasons to incorporate foam rolling into your recovery routine:
- Doing soft tissue work an hour before bed will help down-regulate your nervous system, so you fall asleep faster and have a deeper, relaxing sleep.
- It’s an effective and productive stress modulator that turns your brain off and unwind.
- You will maximize your recovery by alleviating muscle fatigue and soreness, increasing blood flow, and reducing tissue tension.
- There is less chance of injury during a workout; tight muscles will only pull on your joints, resulting in poor form.
- You can work on big muscle groups.
- It reduces joint pain; for example, rolling and loosening the quadricep muscle upstream of the knee and the hamstring downstream helps alleviate joint pain.
Types of foam rollers
When looking to buy a foam roller, there are three primary considerations:
You want a roller that is firm enough for adequate pressure and soft enough that it’s not too painful to use. If you’re new to foam rolling, choose something on the softer side.
- Surface texture
There are smooth rollers and textured ones to target specific areas. Start with a smooth roller since it will be less intense (aka painful!) and more effective.
- Size and shape
Rollers come in a variety of sizes. Start with the most common diameter of 5 to 6 inches and a length of about 36 inches. It’s nice to have a longer roller to use on your back, and it will provide extra stability when working on your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
Loosen with three simple moves (*Sarah, it might help to have some pictures for these to demonstrate what they look like I’ve included iStock photos beside each one)
The quadriceps are the largest group of muscles in your body and one of the most significant sources of force for running, walking, squatting, and stair climbing. It’s time to give these tired muscles a good stretch.
- Lie in a face-down position with the roller across your quadriceps, in a horizontal position.
- Start with the roller at the top of your thigh. Gradually move your body up, so the roller moves down towards your knees.
- Go slowly and stop on any spots that require more attention.
- It can also feel great to make this motion with your knees bent and feet facing upwards.
- You can also keep the roller in place and rotate your body rolling from left to right to move different parts of your quadriceps across the foam roller.
- Upper Back
If you’ve been spending lots of time riding a stationary bike or hunched over your computer, here is a stretch to relieve tension and tightness in your upper back.
- Place the foam roller on the floor, perpendicular to your body, or in a horizontal position.
- Lay down on the floor with the roller underneath you, running across your shoulder blades.
- Bend your legs with your feet firmly planted on the floor, hip-width apart, and fingers laced with hands supporting your head.
- Raise your hips slightly off the floor. Move your body, so the roller moves up and down on your back. Don’t go past your mid-back or bottom of your rib cage.
- It feels terrific to keep the roller in place and move your body so that you are first leaning on the left side of your back and then on your whole back and then over to the right side.
- Move gently and slowly, pausing on any spots that need more attention.
- Hips and glutes
This move will loosen tight hips, increase hip mobility, and alleviate pain.
- Sit on top of the foam roller directly under your sit bones.
- Place your hands behind you on the floor for more support and stability if you need it.
- Bend your knees with your feet on the floor
- Gentle and slowly roll your body from side to side, shifting your knees and feet to support the rolling.
- Stop on any spots that need more attention (usually those spots that hurt!) and breathe through it, noticing how the pain subsides as you continue to roll those tight spots.
It hurts so good
Don’t get us wrong, foam rolling is an excellent mobilizing tool but depending on how stiff you are, it’s going to be moderately painful, especially if you’re getting back into a routine after a long break from the gym. If the movement is excruciating or feels ‘sketchy,’ stop. You want it to feel like getting an intense deep-tissue massage, a bit of pain for huge relaxation gain.
*Pro-tip: Breathe through the movement – Slow down your breathing pattern and focus on your breath when rolling over those sensitive spots. Focus on long slow breaths in and out of the nose to get double the benefits.
If you are new to this, foam rolling may seem like some torture exercise so start with a softer roller, one that’s still firm but has some give to it. Then you can work your way up to the more rigid rollers if you need it. Once you get into this practice, it can feel like a massage, relaxing and soothing for the body and mind—time to get rolling. See you on the mat!
Visit us in store, have a chat with one of our experts! We can also be reached on Facebook and Instagram. Now it’s your turn to tell us, how do you keep your exercise routine going? Be sure to tag us! We are #ReflexNation.