Post-workout stretching has a new partner in crime and it’s called the foam roller. This magical firm foam log is six inches in diameter and can help aide muscle aches and pains often caused by a strenuous workout or run.
So how does it work? Imagine your body is pizza dough and the foam log is the rolling pin. The idea is to use the roller against your muscle knots to generate direct pressure and eventually release tension. This exercise is said to have all the benefits of a deep tissue massage without the lofty price tag. Most foam rollers retail for less than $20 a pop. Not only that some gyms are even designing classes around stretching and foam rolling.
Stretching is an important part of the fitness process. And it is important to finish stretching and cooling down after a workout to help the body.
Here are some foam rolling basics:
It’s supposed to hurt.
Unfortunately deep tissue massages don’t always feel amazing in the moment. The same applies to foam rolling. Muscle knots that have been there for a while will not like the direct pressure from the foam roller, and they will let you know it. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you’re done you should feel better.
Say goodbye to toxins.
When we work out, our bodies can build up lactic acid in the muscle tissue. This is typically what causes those pesky muscle cramps. Using a foam roller will increase the flow of nutrient rich blood to these areas and improve circulation which allows your body to get rid of abnormal fluids and toxins.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Foam rolling is not meant to be a quick exercise. You will get the best results when you take your time. The best method for targeting those painful muscle knots is applying direct pressure for 30-60 seconds. Remember, it’s not meant to be comfortable so you may be tempted to stop prematurely. Don’t. Take it slow breath through the pain. Your body will thank you later.
Stretch and Roll classes are a great place to start experimenting with a foam roller, so first check to see if your gym offers classes. If not, foam rolling is easy to try at home on your own. Check out our slideshow of foam roller exercises to get started.