Last updated on April 26th, 2014 at 08:50 pm
Just this weekend I assisted with an hour long seminar on Foam Rolling for a friend of mine, Harmony. Harmony is also my Massage Therapist and an amazing Yoga Insructor.
I have become a convert to foam rolling and I preach it daily. One one first conversations I have with fitness clients every morning when they walk through the door before the 6 a.m. session.
“Good morning! How are you feeling?”
“My legs are so sore! All those [squats, burpees, push ups] yesterday killed me!”
“Did you take a few minutes to stretch or foam roll?”
“Nope. I’ve got to do that more.”
“Let me show you one stretch you can work on.”
This last statement is usually spoken over my shouder as I bee-line to grab two foam rollers before the session starts.
I struggle with taking time to stretch myself. Just ask Harmony, my sweet and strong massage therapist. I see her every few weeks for deep tissue massage treatments. The knots she’s working on are the same ones I have an opportunity to improve by stretching on my foam roll after every workout.
So can you.
Taking care of your fitness doesn’t stop after you finish sweating.
I have heard of foam rolling over the past few years, but I avoided the pile of rollers in the corner at the gym for fear of looking like an idiot. It took suggestions from my coach and my massage therapist to sink in an important concept.
If a muscle is not flexible, it will pull you off balance.
My flexibility was Gumby-like in my teens an 20’s, a leftover of my years of ballet dancing and gymnastics. Now I have trouble standing up straight after sitting at my desk for hours on end.
Don’t be afraid: Your foam roll can be your friend
My post a few weeks ago covered 6 Workout Ideas to Reduce Sore Muscles, and foam rolling was the first one listed.
There are a few different types of foam rollers. For your first one get something that is in your price range. You will be more comfortable your foam roll faster than you will upgrade. Buy what you can afford.
In the gym, we use the white ones most often and have a few of the black high density to try out. They do have different firmness to them, which depending on how sore you are can be a blessing or a curse.
I picked up the Trigger Point Performance The Grid Foam Roller several months back and have never regretted it. Even though my husband asks if I’m alright while I’m using it. I blame that on the intense grimacing that most people make when foam rolling.
It is going to be uncomfortable, but so are sore muscles. You will feel better after you foam roll.
Grab your foam roll, here we go!
To get you started working out those knots, I chose a few of my favorite stretches to share. I worked hard to smile in several of these.
Remember, it’s hard to foam roll the wrong way as long as you keep these tips in mind:
- Always roll both sides of your body. Just like any exercise, work on both sides of your body every time.
- Stay away from joints and bones. There are too many nerves and it will be unpleasant
- Uncomfortable, stretching, and feeling like a knot is releasing are all good feelings. If it hurts, don’t do it.
Sit on the roller and roll slow down toward your knees until you find that spot you didn’t even know you had that is sore. Stay there. To get even pressure on it, use your hands behind you to balance and bring your feet off the ground.
I love this glute rolling technique since I sit for a living. Most of us do sit for 10+ hours a day, even if it’s not in front of a computer screen. This is why this stretch is my best friend.
Sit on the roller with both feet on the ground and hands behind you for support. Gentle rolling back and forth to locate that sore spot. Cross your right leg over your left knee and lean toward your right hip.
Keep pressure on that spot and take 4 deep breaths. Roll in small 1-2″ increments to search for other knots and repeat. Once you have finished your right cheek, switch to the other side.
This one can be tricky if your foam roll is slippery, so grab the roller with your non-rolling hand to help steady it. Lie on one side with the roller under your armpit and press into it. Raise your hips up and roll down to your side stopping under your pecs. For us women, this is about where your bra strap hits your ribs.
Stay right on your side, trying not to roll forward or back. Slow, small rolling increments until you find a spot again and breathe. Don’t forget to breathe.
Tip: For us girls with long hair, take a second and roll it up in a clip. You can’t make me admit how many times I’ve caught my hair under the roller.
Hitting the inner thigh straight on can help loosen up all those sitting muscles that like to tighten up all day. Try to keep the focus on the inner thigh, and not roll to the front onto the quadriceps. Get as high into the hip area as you can and repeat the process to just above your knee.
Yes, women work on our arms too. This is a spot that feels great during a massage, because we just can’t get the right angle trying to massage our upper arms by ourselves. Adding pressure from the foam roll gets further into the muscle. This is not the face I make when I’m rolling my upper arm without a camera in my face.
Quad and ankle stretch
Ahhh! I had no idea how tight my ankles were until I wrapped my toes around the foam roll, then sat back onto my ankles. This stretch is a great way to practice deep breathing. In all seriousness, it will feel great once you try it.
This stretch is wonderful to focus on all angles of the front of your thighs. Put the roller right under your hips and walk your hands out so the roller is mid-thigh straight on your quads. Pick a sore spot, and stay on it while deep breathing.
Work your way down to just above your knees, then start at the top again and rotate to the left. Repeat down the side of your left quad. Rotate to the right and repeat.
This is a kinder, gentler option of working the side of your leg, or the IT band. I’ll cover the IT band in a post soon since it’s one of the most painful areas to foam roll and deserves some special attention.
Do you feel a little more flexible after your foam roll?
My typical reactions when I foam roll transitions from “Holy crap!” to “Oh yeah!”. Just like after a great workout, the benefit far outweighs any discomfort in getting there.
Every body is built different. Your muscle soreness depends on how much self-care you give yourself. That includes stretching and foam rolling after your workouts.
What’s your go to stretch after you workout? Which one do you hate? Comment or I’ll never know how you feel!
Go get your fit on – Heather
Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and blogger who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.
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