Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a bodywork specialist on call to knead our sore, tight, overworked muscles and fascia (our body’s web of connective tissue)? Most of us don’t so, thankfully, there’s an alternative that you can do anytime in the comfort of your own home. Using your own body weight and a cylindrical piece of foam, you can perform self-myofascial release (SMR), ironing out tight spots in your fascia and improving circulation and neurological responses in your soft tissues.
SMR has become a staple for both activity preparation and recovery for elite athletes to weekend warriors alike. Foam rollers are an inexpensive and effective tool of choice for SMR to: improve flexibility and joint range of motion; correct muscle imbalances and alignment; minimize joint stress; reduce scar tissue accumulation and adhesions; decrease tight or overly toned muscle tissue; relieve muscle soreness and expedite recovery; and maintain normal functional muscular length. All of this helps prevent (or rehab) an injury AND ultimately increase performance!
The primary goal is to restore your load bearing joints to neutral alignment - a position where they are strongest, least at odds with gravity, most resilient, and able to produce the most force when called upon to do so.
Like stretching, foam rolling doesn't yield marked improvements overnight although you’ll definitely notice immediate benefits. The true results of foam rolling come if you stick with it. The first couple of weeks of foam roller therapy more than likely will be uncomfortable (other less publishable descriptive words have been used) and, of course, can be a deterrent. But it can also “hurt so good”. Keep rolling and I promise you the payoff is well worth it. If you use the foam roller regularly, every day or every two to three days, within a couple of weeks you will begin to notice not only does the experience not hurt as much but also it will begin to feel really good like a nice deep tissue massage. Then begin to notice how you feel during and after your runs, too. That is when you will realize the health benefits the most.
SMR is safe and effective for most populations with proper guidance by a trained professional. Those recently injured or with chronic pain disease (such as fibromyalgia) or a circulatory problem should first consult a doctor.
There is no universal agreement on when to roll, how often to roll, or how long to roll, but generally, techniques are used both before and after a workout. Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density, improve alignment and functional movement, and promote a better warm-up. Rolling after a workout may help muscles recover faster from strenuous exercise. One treatment plan does not fit all so always listen to your body first.
Don’t know where to start or just need a little reminder? The monthly FootZone FoamRoller Clinic is this Saturday, November 17th, at 8:45am. It is a one hour introduction to Rolling for Runners guided by Ashleigh Mitchell, certified Pilates teacher specializing is self-myofascial release techniques.
Class is limited to 15 people so please register in advance at the FootZone for $5 to hold your spot. Bring a yoga mat if you have one. Foam rollers are not provided so bring your foam roller if you have one, or purchase one at FootZone with a $5 discount for participants.
Written by Ashleigh Mitchell