With exercise comes tight muscles and over time, repetitive exercise on tight muscles can cause serious injuries. One very effective way to relieve tight muscles is stretching, and foam rolling is an awesome way to stretch those muscles that can be otherwise hard to get in to. You don’t even need a foam roller to do it. As you can see, I use whatever I have at my disposal… Medicine balls, tennis balls, sometimes I just lay awkwardly over gym machines haha.
In saying that though, it can be quite painful (especially if you really need it!) and if you’re going to put yourself through the agony, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Here’s what I’ve learned about foam rolling effectively:
Start at the one end of the muscle you’re rolling and VERY slowly, roll down the muscle. You will feel points on the muscle that will be tighter (and hurt more) than the rest. When you get to these points, stop rolling and hold. Stay on this point and focus on breathing in deeply, and out completely. After about 30 seconds to a minute, you should feel the muscle slowly start to release, or just not be so painful.
If it’s not releasing, you can try slowly rolling a couple of millimetres up and down over the particular point, but don’t go crazy and start rolling all the way up and down the muscle, as this will have little effect. Once the point has released, keep rolling SLOWLY down the muscle until you find the next tight spot and hold. Repeat all the way down the muscle releasing all the sore points, and then that’s enough for one session.
When you foam roll, you are actually breaking down soft tissue to release tightness. So if you overdo it by continuing to go over and over the same points, you can actually cause yourself some damage. You should avoid rolling your lower back and NEVER roll a joint or bone. Make sure you go very lightly on your neck, and seek professional advice if pain persists in this area. In between rolling sessions, be active (and eat your protein) to get that nutrient-carrying blood pumping through your muscles, and stick to regular stretching. Unless your physio or health professional says otherwise, one good session on the foam roller a day should be enough.