I have heard about foam rolling for years but had never tried it until recently. The benefits are well known in the fitness industry. It is “self-myofascial release”, or SMR. It is known to relieve muscle stiffness, soreness and inflammation and increase joint range of motion. The fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses and separates muscles and other internal organs. Trainers advise rolling each muscle group for about 1-5 minutes.
Foam rolling can be utilized to help warm up before a workout. It only takes about 5 minutes to warm up and hydrate your muscles and fascia. Make sure to support your body well with your arms as you roll to avoid falling off of the roller. If you find a tender spot don’t work it too long, just long enough to feel a relaxation in the muscles. Breathe deeply and relax into the roller and roll back and forth. Remember, you are rolling muscles, not bones and joints. Concentrate on the length of your muscles, not the joints. There is no benefit to rolling a sore joint until it is achy. Your muscles will respond by relaxation, your joints will not.
Foam rolling let’s you massage yourself effectively. There are many different rollers to choose from. You want to consider 1-Density 2-Surface Texture 3-Shape and Size
Density- When you first begin you might want to consider a medium density roller. While they don’t last as long as the denser rollers, their softer feel is easier to accommodate when you’re learning to roll. White rollers are the softest while the blue and red are medium density and the black rollers are the most dense and the hardest. If your roller is too soft it may be ineffective but if it’s too hard, you may bruise. Most people begin with a medium density to achieve effectiveness without undue trauma while learning.
Texture- While some rollers have knobs and ridges to give a more targeted massage similar to human hands, a smooth roller gives even pressure across the muscle. Smooth rollers are also less expensive. There are some rollers that provide a variety of textures for finding exactly the amount of pressure that you like. The knobs and ridges on some rollers provide intense pressure which may not be suitable for everyone.
Shape and Size- Long rollers, around 36 inches are good to begin with because they provide stability and great coverage with little effort. They are great for massaging your back. Smaller rollers, around 24 inches are good for your calves and arms and work well in limited space.
The 5-6 inches in diameter rollers are comfortable for beginners and offer a less intense massage than the 3-4 inch rollers. The 3-4 inch rollers will deliver a more targeted, intense massage. You can even get a roller that looks like it’s been cut in half lengthwise for the soles of your feet that is supposed to help with plantar fasciitis. There are foam covered roller massagers for the upper back and foam balls for curved areas such as the lower back. Always get your doctor’s permission before beginning any physical fitness activity or program.
Rolling is also a great cool down exercise. The same techniques that you use to warm up will work as a cool down, dispensing the lactic acid from intense exercise for less post workout soreness and stiffness.
You can buy these fitness tools online or in store at any sporting goods retailer for anywhere from $10 to $100. Usually the $100 roller will come with a vibration function built into the roller and the $10 roller being a plain, soft roller that will feel good enough but it won’t last very long. Choose the one that’s best suited to your needs but after your doctor approves, get rolling!