What can be said about the foam roller? It is an art of simplicity, a display of simple ergonomics, a piece of foam molded into a tubular shape that aids in muscle massage and myofascial release.
Truth be told, the foam roller can be a tortuous piece of sports equipment that we try to avoid! Yes, pure muscle torture! Yet, a while back these harmless looking props popped up everywhere, (i.e. specialty stores, athletic shops, yoga classes and in the stretch area at most gyms). Everyone grimaced their way through a quick roll out at the end of their workout. Travelers even packed them in their carry-on luggage for destination events; they were that important at one time! Fast forward until present day, the rollers are still hanging around, but often left neglected from recovery routines, collecting dust on their circular surface.
At SportPort we spend a lot of time at gyms and work with a lot of trainers and fitness instructors. We have seen and up/down trend in using foam rollers as part of workouts or recovery routines and so we chatted with some of our favorite people to see why interest seems to have taken a down-turn. The benefits of foam rollers can be awesome, whether you’re a seasoned athlete, a gym wanderer, or anywhere in between, so shouldn’t the foam roller still be getting a little respect?
Why Your Foam Roller Feels Misfit
• It’s not fun. “It’s painful and it hurts” was a common joking complaint that we heard, but also an indicator of why people didn’t return to using a foam roller the next time. Let’s face it, we all avoid uncomfortable feelings as much as possible. When we push ourselves in cardio exercise, it can be hard, but we get the feel-good endorphin response as a reward. At the end of foam rolling, participants tended to feel more tired, like at the end of a massage, and not more energized to take on the day ahead.
• Takes too long. Busy schedules can make things hard enough to even have a regular exercise routine. Many want to get to it and get through it, preferring routines that will have you break out in a sweat or burn a ton of calories instead of one that barely raises their heart rate. Incorporating foam rollers into a regular routine may feel like it adds too much extra time to an already busy schedule of fitting in exercise.
• Not a necessity. Many just aren’t keen on pre-exercise warm-ups or stretching before workouts. While they “know” they should, so many don’t actually do it, possibly because, like stretching for some people, it doesn’t seem like a necessary part of their fitness routine when they’re uninjured.
Why Foam Rollers are Good for Fitness
• To relieve tension. A foam rolling routine can help muscles for myofascial release, which is a practice used to relax contracted muscles. When muscles and the connective tissue that surround your muscles is tightened due to overuse or activity, your range of motion may become restricted, while also leaving your muscles, joints and bones less supported. Foam rollers can be used to break up tight areas, which are also frequently called trigger points. Although, loosening these tight muscle areas can be uncomfortable or even painful, regular self-massage may allow you to break up the trigger point, reducing your pain and allowing increased muscle mobility with the release of the myofascial tension. Less tightness means better performance!
• Faster muscle recovery. When you exercise for a prolonged period of time or push your body extra hard, small tears can occur in your muscle fibers, along with muscle inflammation, which contributes to feelings of soreness, tightness or fatigue. By rolling out the muscle groups you’ve used, fibers that are starting to knot up can be worked out. If these areas are not properly self-massaged or allowed enough time to heal on their own, they may lead to injury or movement restriction. Pushing through the pain may not always be the best advice! But, using foam rollers to help to push to better and faster muscle recovery can be!
• Improved blood flow. Foam rolling may also improve blood flow to muscles, helping to provide muscle cells with the appropriate nutrient supply to progress faster. As always, it is important to drink your water to ensure you are sufficiently hydrated to ensure this nutrient repletion can take place. Massage therapists who use foam roller therapies often advise their clients to drink lots of room temperature water after a treatment in the belief that this will help the body flush out toxins released by the muscles during massage. So, drink up!
Convinced enough to show your abandoned exercise roller a little love? Why not be the woman who revives the foam roller trend at your gym! Our hope is that athletes everywhere will realize the continued and awesome recovery benefit that such a simple fitness tool can provide.