Have you ever wondered what that big foam cylinder in the corner is at your gym? Okay, so we know that you know what it is. But do you know how versatile and truly beneficial it is? Let's find out...
Spring, despite not really having sprung yet, is a time of year when we can feel all sorts of aches, discomforts, strains, tightness. We're living a more active lifestyle with winter behind us, and our bodies are beginning to pay a price. Bootcamp workouts are total-body, so you may even feel like your entire body is one big sore spot! Enter the foam roller. The first thing you should do is NOT think of the roller as a tool for rehab alone - it's a lot more than that.
Using your own body weight as pressure, placing an affected muscle on the roller will allow you to massage it. For example - if your back is stiff or tight, laying on the roller face up, feet flat on the floor, will allow you to roll gently back and forth across the roller, loosening up your muscles and breaking down scar tissue build-up from minor tweaks and injuries. This is also known as Myofascial Release. You may have heard this term being used by certain specialists such as Physical Therapists. When an injury is caused, or you haven't been stretching enough, this tightness (when the fascia and the muscle tissue stick together) will usually result in decreased range of motion. Using the roller to break down this scar tissue will allow blood to flow to the area and aid the healing and recovery process. In doing so, you'll also be softening the muscle tissue, which is an ideal supplement to stretching.
Yes - you can use the foam roller to stretch! As you get experimental and creative, positioning yourself all sorts of ways on the roller and feeling it hitting your chosen target spots, picture what's happening. To put it one way, imagine yourself as a ball of dough, and the foam roller is the rolling pin. As you 'roll' on the roller, you're gradually softening and lengthening the fibers and tissues, similar to the effects of stretching. In fact - the foam roller can boast success in stretching certain parts that stretching alone is difficult to target. IT band? Simply lay on the roller on your side, roller under your hip, and slowly move up and down the roller as it massages your outer thigh. Glutes and Piriformis? Sit on the roller, cross one leg over the other knee, putting pressure on one side of your buttocks. Roll back and forth. Voila! A new you!
So whether you use it for rehab, massage, or stretching, add the foam roller to your exercise routine and enjoy. Smaller versions are available, so that you can have one at home for use anytime. Play with it, feel it's benefits, and get creative. It's just about the cheapest all-'round masseuse-turned-chiropractor you'll find! Be warned - you will be heard moaning with pleasure!