Exercise (or repetitive movements in daily life) causes your muscles to go through a constant process of breakdown and repair. Over time, this causes the muscles to become tight when the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, starts to thicken and shorten to protect the underlying muscle from further damage. Sometimes the fibers and fascia contract so much they form trigger points, which manifest as sore spots needing to be released. Fascia also has the ability to contract independently of the muscles it surrounds. It responds to stress without your conscious command. When fascia becomes restricted, adhesions form causing soreness, restricted movement, gait change and potential injury.
Foam rolling can be painful. While it feels better to go fast, and it does circulate blood flow, releasing fascia takes time. Fascia is a thick, fibrous web of tissue. As such, it can’t be released with a quick pass of the foam roller. You need to be slow and deliberate in your movements. Once you find a sensitive area, slowly work back and forth over the spot. Be thoughtful and think of foam rolling like melting through the muscle and fascia.
A slow tempo allows the muscle to relax into the roller and release. Take a full ten seconds to roll up and down whatever muscle you're working on. Set a timer or watch the clock if you need to consciously slow yourself down. Pause for three counts on any spots that feel uncomfortable. That's actually the area you need to target most. This should make you wince a little - it should not be searing pain. (If you feel searing pain, stop foam rolling.) Breathe into the discomfort and consciously relax the tight muscle. Taking those few extra seconds will really get into the muscle.
For more on foam rolling, check out two of my previous blogs - Foam Rolling Basics and Recovery and Foam Rolling.
Foam roll in slow motion this week.
Stay Active, Keep Moving and
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