Hello! We’re back from Brazil, and had an amazing time! I’ll be posting a recap of my trip this weekend, so stay tuned! Did you get to check out my two Motivation Monday posts, Jillienne’s guest post on marathon training with a group, and Caroline’s guest post on healthy snacks for work, all posted while I was gone? I hope you enjoyed them!
In the middle of my 29-hour journey back to Dallas, I was thinking why I was excited to get home. Groceries and my own bed were near the top of the list, but one thing I dearly missed that you may not guess is … my foam roller! I briefly mentioned my foam rolling habit when I discussed the benefits of compression, but I haven’t yet covered it in detail. (this is the version I have from Amazon – I think any are fine, although I recommend the “high density” versions)
I first got my foam roller when I was having piriformis issues (basically … a pain in the butt, literally), and since then have relied on it consistently. I believe my foam roller is one of the most critical pieces of equipment for keeping my body healthy, strong, and injury-free, and it’s one of the first things I recommend to new runners or runners increasing their mileage.
What is foam rolling?
Foam rolling is an easy way of performing myofascial release on yourself. In basic terms, it’s a somewhat painful (but often in the “hurts-so-good” sense) way to deeply massage your muscles and release tension in the fascia (connective tissue) that is hard to reach. Foam rolling helps athletes work out the small knots that build up from exercising, injuries, and even day-to-day “wear and tear” like sitting for long periods of time. (picture source)
What does foam rolling help with?
For me personally, reducing soreness from my workouts and speeding up recovery time are enough to encourage me to foam roll regularly. However, many cite various benefits from foam rolling, including:
- Improved circulation
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased range of motion (allowing you to perform exercises more efficiently and pain-free)
- Increased blood flow
- Decreased muscle tightness/ stiffness
- Reduced knots
- Reduced pain/ soreness
One 2014 study showed that, while athletes who foam rolled did not experience increases in performance, their reduction in fatigue, soreness, and exertion after foam rolling was significant. Another study by the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research showed an average of 7-10 degrees of improved knee flexion after just 2 minutes of quadriceps foam rolling.
How do I use it?
While many suggest foam rolling both before and after exercise (as a warm-up and cool-down), I haven’t yet gotten into that habit. Instead, I spend about 5 minutes every single night when I am home, right before bed, doing a “routine” of full-body foam rolling that keeps me healthy and happy. Although it hurts a lot when you first start foam rolling, it becomes much easier and less painful with time, and I now crave the deep release that I get from my nightly foam rolling sessions! Each night, I roll my back (you’ll hear a lot of popping!), my left glute/piriformis, left hamstring, left calf, right calf, right hamstring, right glute/piriformis, left IT band, left quad, right IT band, and right quad. Here are some videos of all the exercises I do (just click on the body part you want to see, like “back,” for the link to the videos):
Back (I do a combination of the 1st and 3rd exercises here, with my hands behind my head, then pause and do the 2nd exercise)
IT Band (most painful, but probably most effective as well)
Quads (my favorite!)
So tell me in the comments … Do you foam roll? What is your “trick” to recover more quickly from exercise?