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My Fitness Essential: Foam Roller

Woman with foam rollers

I have a love/hate relationship with my foam roller but I consider it an essential fitness tool.

My husband often asks why I use my Foam Roller. “You purposefully roll it on the parts of your body that are tight. You look so unhappy when you do it. Our dog checks on you to make sure you are ok. This can’t be good for you.”

I laugh every time he says it. He is right. It is not comfortable to use and Sadie dog is often concerned about my wellbeing and stands near me to protect me from the foam roller. But it does help relax tight muscles and it seems to reduce the amount of muscle soreness after exercise.

I pull it out now after runs, yoga sessions or strength training workouts.

I take foam rolling breaks now to stretch muscles as I am sitting more while working form home than I did when I worked in the office. It has definitely relieved neck and shoulder tension.

There are still questions about the science behind how it works and the limited research available has been done with small groups of people. So even though it is really popular, we are still learning about how effective it is.

Recent literature on foam rolling is the following:

  • It is more helpful to use a foam roller after exercise, than as part of a warm-up/pre-stretching routine. One of the reasons is that foam rolling increases blood flow to the area and that often speeds up recovery and removes excess lactic acid build-up during a workout.
  • Use a softer foam roll to start. Don’t start with the bumpiest, hard foam roller. Your body will need some time to adjust to the pressure and tension created when you are foam rolling.
  • It should be uncomfortable but not painful. Newer research is coming out saying that foam rolling over trigger points and really painful spots/knots may slow down healing and recovery time. So don’t push extra hard on that knot or super-sensitive area. Gently roll over it and give it time to heal.
  • Use a lacrosse ball to roll your lower back muscles. It is not suggested to use a foam roller directly on your lower vertebrae.

Resources and videos to start foam rolling:

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