Monday, June 23, 2014

Foam Rolling 101

Foam Rolling 101: The Physical and Health Benefits

While many of my clients are up to date on the latest cardio fads, they don't know much about foam rolling and its great health benefits. Here, I will explain why learning more about foam rolling is a great way to improve overall health.

Foam rolling, also known as "self myofascial release," had been popular outside of physical therapy and made its way into the gym about 10 years ago.

I foam roll almost every day and bring a foam roller to my sessions. However, I am surprised to see that most people know little to nothing about this wonderful way of self massage and have never even seen a foam roller.

Why do you foam roll?
As we use our muscles they contract, and can stay contracted when they are not supposed to for various reasons such as to protect an injured area, lack of electrolytes from dehydration, or simple everyday use. This permanent contraction of the muscle can lead to pain and even can move joints out of alignment over time. Foam rolling can help keep the joints in alignment by removing the tightness in your muscles.

Precautions for Foam Rolling
Sounds great so far? Be warned: Foam rolling can hurt when you first do it. I won’t lie when you first try foam rolling it does not feel good. I had so many knots in my thighs when I did my first bout of foam rolling it hurt a lot. It feels like the pain of a very intense stretch. This pain can be especially overwhelming when you first try to foam roll your IT band (the outside of your legs). But when you are done you feel like you have new legs. It's just amazing how good you can feel when you have rolled out all those locked muscles. Here are a few other precautions:

1. Don't foam roll on top of the roller if you have bone loss. Foam rolling involves putting your body weight on the roller and rolling back and forth on it. This is not safe if you have osteoporosis. It can supposedly cause small stress fractures if you have bone loss. You can safely use the foam roller with bone loss by rolling it using your hand on your tight areas. You can also roll out your back by placing the foam roller against the wall and rolling your back gently against it.

2. Don't foam roll when you are hurt. Foam rolling is not for broken bones, or sprained or bruised areas. Wait until you are completely healed and your doctor clears you for exercise when you want to resume foam rolling. When you are better foam rolling can prevent permanent pain in the injured area.

3. Never foam roll your lower back or neck. Foam rolling the lower back can put undue pressure on your kidneys, and your neck and back are too delicate for the pressure of foam rolling.

How to foam roll
Place the foam roller on the floor. Place the body part you want to roll on top of the foam roller, hold yourself up with your hands (kind of like a plank position), and roll your thighs back and forth on the foam roller. When you feel a lump or a very painful area when you are rolling, stay on that area for a few seconds. Then roll over the whole area back and forth three to five times. Finally, get off the foam roller and shake your legs out. Chances are you will feel like you have new legs.

The benefits of foam rolling
Here are just a few benefits:
·     Improved circulation
·     Maintenance of proper nerve-to-muscle communication
·     Improved athletic performance, speed, agility, and recovery time. (These benefits go hand in hand, because when muscles are locked up they put unneeded pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, and this can cause pain and prevent them from doing their job).
·     Pain reduction
·     Maintenance of proper joint alignment

… And foam rolling can just plain feel good!

Foam rollers as exercise equipments
You can exercise on a foam roller sort of like you do on a Swiss ball, but not as hard. It can be used a stability tool in the same way. Try lying on your back, and place your feet on the foam roller and lift up your hips for a challenging bridge exercise. You can lie on a large foam roller and make crunches twice as hard.

Which foam roller to buy
Foam rollers can cost anywhere from $7 to $80 and have different textures and sizes. Right now I use the Trigger Point Performance textured foam roller with a steel core. I have the small one, and most of my clients do too. I wish I had the large one to do exercises on. This is one of the most expensive ones on the market but it is a great deal. Keep in mind that foam rollers can take a beating, but are easy to clean. One of my client's Trigger Point foam rollers even stayed intact after a hurricane and the abuse of several grandchildren. Mine has survived dog bites. Personally I do not like the high-density foam rollers, but that is just a personal preference.

You can find foam rollers at Paragon, finer yoga or running stores, and sometimes at discount chain stores. Add foam rolling to your fitness routine today!

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