Saturday, April 11, 2015

Foam Rolling Basics

You've seen the 3-foot-long cylinders of hard, industrial foam in sporting goods stores and at the gym. What are they and how are you supposed to use them? Foam rollers are the least expensive massage therapist in the world for your tight muscles. Place it on the floor, position your body on it and roll out your knots. It can also assist with amazing stretches.

Foam rollers can be remarkably effective: A 2013 study found that rolling the hamstring muscles can substantially improve flexibility after just five seconds without adversely affecting strength or performance. Exercisers should spend five to ten minutes rolling out major muscle groups. Key areas include the fronts, insides, and outsides of each thigh; the calves, hamstrings and glutes; and the sides and back of your torso.  Take 10 to 20 seconds in each muscle group and focus on areas that feel exceptionally tight. Foam rolling can have the same "hurts so good" feeling you get with an intense massage. Breathe deep and relax as much as possible. As you loosen up, the discomfort will lessen.

I have seen white, blue and black foam rollers in the stores. The colors indicate firmness of the foam. I prefer the black. The softer blue roller did not give me the massage I needed. There are also lots of knobby rollers, some with handles, etc. I have not tried all of them, but have found the smooth roller most effective for me.

Often the IT band, a strap-like connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh, can get very tight. Roll this area to guard against knee pain and injury. I feel this is one of the most important exercises to do and delivers amazing benefits. The picture above shows how to start foam rolling the IT band. Travel from hip to knee, but avoid rolling on the knee joint.

Take time for yourself, foam roll your tight spots and Keep Moving!

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