Consider these two statements:
To enjoy long-term health, exercise is required.
To enjoy long-term exercise, recovery is required.
Today I want to tell you about an effective tool used for recovery: a foam roller.
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Stick with me on this; we’ll get to the cheap massage (AKA roller) in a minute.
Regular cardiovascular and strength training help the body in many ways. They help prevent and treat many diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and many cancers.
All your body systems work best when you exercise. Without regular exercise, your body can lose the ability to be active.
In other words, aging does not cause loss of mobility; inactivity does. Provided you plan to remain mobile, exercise should be a daily or almost daily part of your life.
When you exercise, you cause minor trauma to the muscles. The repair of the muscles takes place in the next 24 to 48 hours. This rebuilding process is when muscles become bigger and stronger. By allowing muscles to recover between bouts of exercise, you realize the most benefits with the least chance for injury.
Recovery is achieved by getting adequate sleep, eating protein to aid in muscle growth, eating quality carbohydrates to restock the muscles with energy and drinking fluids to replace lost hydration.
However, another strategy to help the body recover is through rolling tight muscles and adhesions in the fascia (the shrink wrap around our muscles) using a foam roller as a form of self-massage.
Foam rolling increases blood flow throughout the body, allowing fresh nutrients and oxygen to come in and begin healing. It increases range of motion and reduces tension. And who doesn’t need that?
If you haven’t tried foam rolling before, you should begin slowly by rolling only about 30 seconds on each area. As your body becomes accustomed to it, you’ll be able to tolerate longer sessions.
Almost all muscle groups can benefit from rolling, particularly the quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, upper back and the IT bands.
Begin with a basic 6-inch roller that is about 3 feet long. These can be found at most sporting goods or running stores or online.
Lay the roller on the ground and position the body part that you wish to roll on top. Slowly begin rolling back and forth, stopping for 15 to 20 seconds on especially tight or painful spots to release the adhesions in the fascia, then continue rolling.
Warning: It will be uncomfortable the first few times — especially those IT bands. Placing a foot on the floor will allow you to take some of the pressure off if it’s too painful. With continued regular use, it will become almost pain-free and quite pleasant.
Although this article highlights the use of foam rollers for exercise recovery, almost everyone could benefit from foam rolling. You can expect tension relief, improved flexibility and range of motion and many of the other benefits that you would get from traditional massage. Foam rolling is also very effective for preparing your body before exercise.
Check with your doctor if you have an injury or otherwise aren’t sure if rolling would be appropriate for you. With regular use, this may just be the step you needed to obtain that personal record in a 5K — or better yet, free you from chronic pain.