A bit about foam rolling and its magical power to make everything all better…
This post was inspired by Vanessa.
(If you don’t have patience for all the blah blah blah at the beginning, scroll ahead to the pictures.)
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Foam rolling… heard of it?
It’s essentially a beefed up version of stretching, but without the stretching. The fancy term to describe the function of foam rolling is self-myofascial release, which basically just means self-massage. So, in order to achieve this super duper self-myofascial release, you contort your body in awkward ways on top of a long, foam cylinder and you roll back and forth. To take it a step further, when you hit a tender spot, you stop, apply more pressure, roll slower, and writhe in the pain. Yes, foam rolling hurts. (But it hurts so good, right?)
You can foam roll frequently for good measure. You can foam roll for fun. You can foam roll to aid in injury recovery. You can foam roll once a week just to say you did it. You can foam roll in conjunction with regular stretching. You can foam roll instead of stretching. You can foam roll however you want.
But the most important thing is this – you should definitely try foam rolling.
(The real point of this blog is to see just how many times I can say “foam” and “roll.” Buckle up.)
There are quite a few ideas for exactly HOW foam rolling works (and you can follow the link to see an educated break down of all the theories), but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead I’m here to sing its praises by telling you how incredibly well foam rolling has worked for me.
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I’m not normally the person complaining about injuries or pains. I never have been. But recently, after getting into heavier weights in the gym, my body is naturally feeling the stress. A few weeks ago (maybe 3 or 4 now) I got my first real injury from lifting. It wasn’t anything too serious, don’t worry. I just attempted to bicep curl more weight than I was ready for, and hurt my shoulder by throwing it a weird way to get the weight up. (HORRIBLE MOVE ON MY PART) I was extremely worried about it and quite honestly had no idea how to handle the injury since I’d never had one before. Rest? Right? That’s the proper thing to do? And ice it? Heat it? Hell, I didn’t know. So I asked around in a few of the fitness communities I’m a part of, and that’s when I was directed to foam rolling for the first time.
So, I gave it a try. I also took it easy on my arm/shoulder for about a week and incorporated a routine warm-up before every workout (something I really should have always been doing, but was only pushed to do after getting hurt). These things combined – foam rolling, resting, icing, and utilizing warm ups – worked together to heal my shoulder in less than 7 days.
I was amazed. I thought I’d be reaping the consequences of my overzealousness for at least a few weeks.
That’s when I had the thought to use foam rolling to ease other minor aches and pains I was feeling as a result of lifting, the main one being my knees. *This is where the real praise begins.*
I don’t have bad knees. I also don’t have improper squat form. But for some reason, my knees always ached after leg/lower body days. Sometimes the pain would be worse than others, and sometimes it’d last for 2-3 days after the workout. It was never intolerable, but it made me a bit worried I was doing something wrong, or that I was headed for injury. So the first thing I did was talk to my fitness communities and my crossfit coaches about my squat form. I wanted to be sure my mechanics were correct first and foremost. Turns out, my form is fine. So what was it, then, that was making my knees hurt?
I already had the idea in my head to try foam rolling my legs more frequently to see if it would ease the pain, and after being told by multiple people that foam rolling my IT band could help *pictures to follow*, I began trying it.
What I was told by my crossfit coach is that one of the biggest suspects for knee pain like I was experiencing is a “tight IT band” which is something that foam rolling works amazingly well to alleviate. Foam rolling has been wonderful to me in this aspect, and it has also been great for easing minor aches in my elbows. Here are a few pictures to guide you if you are considering foam rolling for the first time:
(You can click on the pictures to see enlarged versions and laugh at my derpy faces.)
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The IT band
You roll on the side of your leg from the top down to just above your knee. The IT band itself is located on the outward side of the top of your leg. (This is easily one of the most painful places for me to roll.)
You put your foot on your knee as pictured and roll on your butt cheek. If your right foot is on your left knee you roll the right butt cheek and vice versa. You should lean a bit towards whichever side you’re rolling to increase the pressure and therefore enhance the positive effects. This will be a smaller rolling motion staying right on the meaty part of the cheek.
You cross your feet and roll the calf of the bottom leg. Crossing your feet works to add pressure to the roll, but if it’s too much you can place one leg on the roller and one leg off the roller on the floor. You roll from just below the knee to just above the ankle.
As pictured, you lie stomach-down with the top of one leg on the roller. You roll from just below your hip to just above your knee. To increase pressure you can cross your legs and put your whole body weight on the bottom leg when rolling, but I find that this is a bit too intense for me sometimes.
This one is a bit more awkward than the others as it’s kind of hard to move your body above the roller, but I’ve found that it works WONDERS for my achy elbows. You roll from your armpit to just above your elbow. You can shift around so that you are rolling different parts of your arm, but the main area targeted will be the triceps.
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So! I hope this encourages you to try foam rolling, and I hope you will see positive results like I have.
I generally foam roll about 2-4 times a week, and most often I do it right after a workout that leaves me feeling the aches in my knees/elbows. However, I will also sometimes get the urge to do it randomly at home while I’m watching TV. I use foam rolling in conjunction with stretching and proper warm up before my workouts. These are all things I would suggest everyone do.
Lastly, when you are foam rolling, it’s going to hurt.
I can usually only take about 5-8 rolls on one area at a time.
I roll very slowly over the more tender parts.
I alternate flexing, pointing, and relaxed feet to find different tender areas.
In all, the most I spend foam rolling is 30 minutes, and it usually averages 15.
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Pura vida and stay strong, Fit4Reviewers!