Whether it’s something you make a conscious effort to do to benefit your training, or its something you only ever do when it’s a little too late, the majority of people have heard of foam rolling. And while it is effective on its own, paired with regular stretching, it can work wonders to improve both your body and your mind.
But what is foam rolling, and why should you make it a vital part of your training regime?
WHAT IS FOAM ROLLING?
Even if you’ve not used one before, you’ll have seen foam roller… it’s the foam-like, ridged tube often found sitting in the corner of your gym. Maybe you’ve seen a few people laying themselves across one, rolling themselves back and forward, and the thought that you should probably give it a go has crossed your mind? But let’s be honest, you never have… Or you’ve given it a try, but couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about?
If you want to be fancy, foam rolling can also be referred to as self myofasical release. Performed to release muscle tightness or trigger points, this form of self massage applies pressure to specific points on the body, to aid recovery and stretch tight or lengthen short muscles.
Imagine a knot in a bungee cord. If you stretched cord, the cord would be put under tension and be lengthen, however the knot itself would still remain, and if anything, would be pulled tighter. As foam rolling has the ability to kneed out any knots in the body, rolling your muscles is best performed before you stretch.
WHY YOU SHOULD USE A FOAM ROLLER
Believe it or not (and you probably won’t if you’ve seen the pained look on the face of anyone using one), when used correctly, a foam roller can actually be soothing for your muscles. And that horrible ache you find yourself with a day or two after a workout…? It can minimise that muscle soreness too.
Once only used by athletes and coaches, foam rolling is actually perfectly practical for everyday use and yes, for all levels of fitness too. Similarly to stretching, it isn’t just for rehab either, with the ability to help prevent injuries before they even happen.
SHOULD FOAM ROLLING BE PAINFUL?
When foam rolling tight muscles or trigger points it isn’t uncommon to experience discomfort or pain, just like when stretching. Foam rolling should be slightly uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be unbearable. And you should feel better, more relaxed and more flexible afterwards. These specific trigger points or knots can be caused by many factors, with the main culprits being poor flexibility or mobility, odd movement patterns, bad posture and even stress!