Foam Rolling? What is it?
Six Simple Things-Foam Rolling
When I ask this question more often than not, I get a quizzical look? A WHAT? Those thick pool noodle looking things have been around for ages, and they are quite possibly the easiest thing that a person can do to help their bodies feel better no matter their activity level. Lurking just underneath our skin is a protective layer of soft tissue called “fascia”. Fascia is the body’s keep it together emissary, wonder under, duct tape, crazy glue! Its job is to connect bones, nerves, and blood vessels to one another in a harmonious balance that leaves everything working together fluidly, and compact. As with most things in life, often there are times of unbalance, and this creates discord. In the case of our muscle and fascia system, this happens for several reasons-not stretching, falling victim to injury, or even not moving enough. The technical term for this is an adhesion, or when the underlying muscle tissue becomes stuck or sticky. Adhesion’s cause more internal discord through pain, soreness, reduced flexibility, and sometimes even the loss of range of motion. So, where do foam rollers come into play? Well, they are an inexpensive solution to keep adhesions and other muscle issues at bay. With a little of ingenuity and at times some comical experimentation, you can target just about any muscle group. Here are 6 Simple Things a foam rolling practice can do for you!
What you have no stress?! Good for you! For most of us, life happens, and along with that comes stress. Maybe your dog ate an important receipt, or you locked the keys in the car, or something huge or : Whatever the case may be, stress is just part of the game. Everyone wears stress differently, in their shoulders, or legs or lower back. Spending a few moments of quality time with your foam roller can erase those knots and help your muscles relax just like a massage would. When you release those knots and sore spots, the tension you’re carrying releases in that connective tissue, or fascia, and the stress melts away. Bonus: There is no appointment needed and you don’t have to leave the house!
2. Improved Circulation
One benefit of foam rolling is increased blood circulation. A recent study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research states that the mechanical effect of firmly applied pressure and movement used in foam rolling can improve the function of your arteries. Healthy blood flow is necessary for healthy tissue and organ function because it permits the continuous exchange of nutrients and waste in the cells. Lymphatic circulation is also increased through regular foam rolling; it too is extremely beneficial in ridding the body of toxins. Lymph nodes are found at key points in our bodies, notably under the armpit, the area of your diaphragm, and in your neck (we usually only notice these guys when they are fighting off infections such as cold or flu, and they are inflamed). Lymph nodes are crafty little filters that carry impurities and waste away from our tissues. Just as blood flow is controlled by the heart muscle, lymph fluid movement depends largely on the squeezing effect of muscle contractions (aka moving). Foam rolling can assist our body’s filters to greatly benefit your overall health through this improved circulation.
3. Improved Flexibility
Maintaining flexibility and balance is key for long term ease of motion, which means you should be stretching and doing activities that will maintain or increase your flexibility and range of motion. A common cause of lower back pain is tight hamstrings (back of your thighs). Keeping them limber, and well “rolled” can help relieve this pain. Foam rolling greatly benefits muscle capability, by feeding and loosening them. The more flexible your muscles, within the normal range of motion, the more power they are able to produce. Our muscles are stretchy fibers, I liken them, rubber bands. As such, they contain what is called elastic energy. The more stretch a muscle has, the more it stores energy, and thus more force is generated. Basically, this adds up to a healthier you. On the other end of the spectrum, a less flexible muscle produces less stretch, less range of motion, less stored energy, and decreased force output–like a broken rubber band. Foam rolling combined with adequate stretching, strengthening, and activity levels can help you stay fit for the long term. Conversely, more foam rolling can help keep you able to move, stretch and strengthen. This process IS standard practice among many collegiate and professional level athletes because of documented performance benefits.
4. Improved Posture
How is your posture? No, I am not asking if you can walk with a book perched on top of your head (oops kind of old school). However, if you can, then go you! When I mention posture, I mean how is it good is at keeping your body in its natural alignment? Maintaining a properly aligned posture is important because it helps decrease tension and helps you to avoid awkward positioning when doing everyday tasks, both at work and at home. Strong, flexible muscles aid in better posture! Coupling foam rolling with some simple corrective exercises can go a long way to helping you be a more efficient machine!
5. Pain Relief
A simple truth of life is that we are hard on our bodies. We work hard, and some of us play even harder. Sometimes the most random things, like standing (or sitting) for too long, can start a flurry of aches and pains that you probably wish were not there. Using foam rollers to work out those tight muscles aids in the breakdown of adhesions, and help the muscles in question burn off leftover lactic acid. This makes them more efficient, like those rubber bands I mentioned earlier, thereby making us healthier.
Just like one yoga class does not an expert yogi make, having a one-and-done mentality when it comes to foam rolling will not benefit you going forward. To really see the benefits of the practice, you will be best served by the regular use of your foam roller. Regular foam rolling can help prevent cramps and will even strengthen your muscles long term. Sure, you may have a little discomfort in the beginning, as with any other form of improvement, it will get better over time, and will save you from worse pain, and even injury down the line.
6. Improved Immune System
Lastly, let’s recap, with less stress, less pain (eventually), improved circulation of blood & lymph, increased flexibility and better posture, how can you NOT have a better immune system? Foam rolling is about slowly working on things that have limited your range of motion over time, increasing your ease of motion and UPPING YOUR HEALTH SPAN! Using this simple tool can be empowering, allowing you to take charge of your health and wellness. Shop around or Get one here! (Want to learn how to use one, schedule a training session)
Cheers to your Best Self
Be Well, Sharon