Roll With It

The love-hate relationship with the foam roller is a real thing, people. It’s so good for you, yet why is it so painful? Chances are, if you’re very active, lacking in the stretching department, and don’t receive bodywork regularly, getting on the roller will be a slightly uncomfortable situation.

But the benefits of this oblong piece of styrofoam far outweigh the temporary discomfort. This tool is used as a form of self massage, aka: myofascial release. Sounds good, right? Although it isn’t quite as magnificent as having someone give you a massage, it gets increasingly more enjoyable the more you use it. Rolling daily will help your body recover from a workout by taming the lactic acid build up and a pre-workout roll warms up muscles and joints, crucial to aid in preventing injuries.  

They come in a variety of different consistencies. It’s a little like Goldie Locks, you have to sample a few to find the one that’s just right for you. For beginners, I recommend the blue or white roller because they’re the most forgiving. Others can feel a bit like a concrete cylinder – and that’s unpleasant. Have faith, your perfect comfort match is waiting for you. Whatever your fitness of choice is – running, yoga, pilates, or professional computer squatter – this less than five pound apparatus can give your achey muscles some much deserved soothing.

A few things to remember when using the foam roller:

  • Avoid direct pressure to a muscle or joint. Especially joints, stick to soft tissue areas.
  • Roll slow and breathe. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • All you need is 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes on each area, don’t over roll.
  • If it hurts stop! Uncomfortable, perhaps. Torturous, no! 
  • Everyones body is different, experiment with different angels to suit your comfort. 

How to use the foam roller:

1. Gluteus Medius, Hip Abductors: Starting with these large muscles is going to begin breaking up the facia near your IT Band, an ultra sensitive area if you have tight hamstrings and hips. Working these surroundings will lessen the shock when you start moving down the ITB. Sit on the horizontal roller. Cross leg over opposite knee, making a figure four shape. Position hands behind roller for support. Roll back and fourth on the side of the crossed leg, massaging into the external glute and hip rotator. Increase pressure by leaning more to the side of the crossed leg. 

2. Quads: Lie with your hips on top of horizontal roller. Elbows on the ground. Carefully walk forward into plank. Gently move forward and backwards, from hips to just above knee. Use elbows to maneuver slowly. Note: in plank position be mindful of your posture, no droopy hips, your neck an extension of your spine. Protect your low back. 

3. IT Band (runners nemesis): Horizontal roller. Start at the top hip on your side. Use front arm and hand to support and control the amount of pressure. Begin to roll down the side of your leg, slowly move from a strait arm to a bent elbow. Do the opposite to roll back to start. When you are on your elbow the roller will be just above your knee, its sensitive there, being close to level ground is going to feel the most comfortable and safest. 

4. Upper back/Lats (shoulders to low ribcage): Lie face up, just below shoulder blades, roller horizontal. Place hands under head to cradle neck. Knees bent. Use abs to support back and lift your hips. Use your feet by pressing in the floor, roll from the upper back to low ribcage. If discomfort occurs in your back, try putting the roller on your bed for less intensity. Stick to the upper portion of your back, it’s safer. 

5. Shoulder/Chest Opener: Attention, push-up junkies, this one’s for you! Lie face up on vertical roller. Tailbone and head supported, knees bent, feet hip distance apart on the floor. Start by bending your elbows and make an L shape with your arms, it will look like field goal posts. You’ll notice flexibility increasing the lower your elbows get to the floor. Hold 30 sec.-1.5 min. Next, with extended arms over chest, squeeze your scapula together as if you were hugging the roller with your shoulder blades, than reach fingers towards the sky. Repeat 10-15. 

What are you waiting for? Go hug your roller and make besties with your new friend.