Despite their appearance, foam rollers are not instruments of torture. Some of their scary-looking spikes may not look very inviting, but they are actually an essential part of a healthy, active lifestyle.
So, what is a foam roller exactly? They come in all shapes and sizes, and work to release knots in your muscles. Larger, cylindrical foam rollers are for the legs, hip, and back muscles. Smaller rollers are handheld and are specifically designed for calf and arm muscles. It’s best to roll out an hour or two after a workout, when your muscles are still sore from the activity, but are not inflamed.
Here’s how to use the two most common kinds of foam rollers:
Foam rollers: If you’re using a large roller, lay it on the floor and gently put your leg or hip on top of the roller. Slowly add pressure, rolling back and forth across the muscle to check for tight or tender spots. When you get to a knot in your muscle, it will be especially tender. Press your weight on that spot for 30-50 seconds. When you get to the end of your muscle, slightly release pressure. This process should be painful, but not unbearable. If the pain becomes sharp or intense, stop rolling, and contact a doctor if the pain continues.
Spiky foam rollers: These rollers are for deep tissue massages and are used the same way as normal foam rollers. They work out knots deep within your tissue fibers, and can be especially painful for rolling newbies. Do not start rolling with these!
Although the process of foam rolling may feel uncomfortable, you’ll feel great the next day. Rolling drastically releases muscle soreness and keeps your body limber and healthy. Here are five other benefits of foam rolling:
- When you are especially active, the soft tissue that connects your muscles (called fascia) can become inflamed and thicken. Rollers release that built-up muscle tension, keeping you muscles flexible and healthy.
- Rolling is one of the best ways to heal nagging injuries. Rolling breaks up scar tissue, which can form in hard knots and prevent your muscles from working properly.
- The results feel amazing! You will feel a big, relaxing release and extra sensation in the ends of your muscles as you roll them out and break up thick, chunky knots.
- It keeps you in check with your body. By rolling your muscles, you’ll learn more about your body, like where your pressure points are and which parts of your muscles are prone to tightness and possible injury. This self-awareness is the best form of injury prevention.
- It’s cheap and small. A trip to the doctor or a sports massage therapist can be costly, but you can buy a foam roller for $15 or less. Rollers are small and can be easily tucked against a cabinet for storage.
Foam rolling is the perfect complement to a healthy, active lifestyle. It soothes tight muscles, increases circulation, and reduces soreness after a workout. If you’re new to rolling, try it for ten minutes two times a week — you will see improvements the next day. And who knows, you may even graduate to the “scary-looking” spiky roller in no time.
Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/263742121903007377/