You might be wondering what foam rolling is. Well, foam rolling is a hugely popular activity that, in the most simplest of definitions, helps relieve post-workout muscle tension. Most people experience muscle soreness after workouts, and feeling sore is merely a feeling. Being sore is a not a medical condition, rather, it is an ambiguous term that is the result of excess tension or stiffness. This is where the magic of foam rolling comes into play.
What does the foam roller do? Foam rolling is a recovery tool to massage away the lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles when you exercise. You are essentially making the muscles looser, rolling away the tension that is stored in the fascia, which is the connective tissue that wraps around all the muscles in the body. If the fascia is tight, knots or toxins can get lodged in it and make it thick, dense, and hard to relieve. By foam rolling, you are performing self myofascial release, which helps restore range of motion and eliminate pain in the connective tissue.
We aren’t going to lie, foam rolling can be something you don’t necessarily want to do. It is similar to flossing in that you know you should do it everyday, but you may only want to do it once in a while. Since muscles are constantly working, it is beneficial to make foam rolling habitual in order to feel more relaxed. Not only does foam rolling relieve tightness, but it also helps increase flexibility by loosening the fascia. If a muscle is tight and you try to stretch away tension, it is like pulling on a knot to undo it. You have to get in there and loosen it up before you can pull the string, and that is exactly what the foam roller does.
When you start foam rolling, the most important thing to remember is to relax and breathe. The goal is to relieve tension, not create more. The ideal place to start is your calves and slowly work up to rolling your back. Place the back of your calves on the roller and start rolling slowly. You don’t want to roll too fast because this doesn’t relieve the aggravated tissue. By rolling slowly, it forces you to pay attention to the painful areas. When you hit a really tight spot, you can rock side to side to help decrease the tightness.
The most important spot to foam roll is the iliotibial (IT) band. The IT band, which runs along the exterior of your upper leg, is often tight because it is easily stressed. Standing for long periods of time or engaging the wrong muscles during workouts can make the IT band tight. Slowly roll the outside of your leg every day to help it out; it’s not your enemy. Then you can continue to roll your gluteus muscles and your back, which always feels amazing. When you familiarize yourself with your foam roller, you can begin using different techniques to relieve pain in various parts of the body. Additionally, there are many foam rollers you can experiment with to find out which one helps you out the most.