One thing I’ve been doing to keep my body healthy and as flexible as it can be as I age is foam rolling. I don’t do nearly enough of it but foam rolling has been amazing for my 44 year old body. If I go on a long car or plane ride I can feel the tightness creep into my low back and hips. Ah, the joys of getting older! When I am running regularly my foam roller relieves the build up of tension in my IT band and calves.
I try and break out my foam roller when I’m feeling tight from traveling or if I’m feeling really sore from a workout. It’s a great piece of equipment to have in your home and you should definitely try to use it everyday if you can. Foam rolling can be difficult to understand and execution can be a little tricky at first. There are so many ways to use a foam roller to provide relief to sore muscles so I asked my girlfriend, Sheila Cordaro, a mom-preneur and owner of Cor Fit in Arlington, Virginia, to explain it.
What Is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique. Basically, you are using a cylindrical piece of foam to self massage and release muscle tightness. It should not replace stretching but if done before static stretching, some people experience a deeper stretch. Foam rollers come in all shapes, sizes, and firmness, so finding the one that fits your needs is important.
Why Should We Foam Roll?
When our bodies are tight we have a limited range of motion and we don’t move as easily and freely. Our children are perfect examples of moving freely — as babies they have the flexibility to touch their toes to their mouths. I don’t know many adults that can do that! As we age our mobility decreases. When we are immobile or inflexible we are more likely to injure ourselves. Tight tissues can snap like a rubber band!
How Do You Foam Roll?
Using your body weight, you can position yourself to target almost any soft tissue area by rolling back and forth (about 2 to 6 inches) from your core to your extremities, avoiding bones, joints and most importantly, your organs.
Is Their Specific Technique For Foam Rolling?
Lightly rolling won’t have much of an effect, so you have to put some pressure into sore target areas by positioning yourself appropriately over indirect areas of pain before you target the specific spots. Slowly roll tender areas for 5 to 10 seconds. Expect some discomfort during your first few foam rolling experiences. It may feel very tender or bruised at first, so be sure to start with just 5 to 10 seconds per area and rest a day in between foam-rolling sessions. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can increase your rolling time to 30-60 secs per area.
How Do You Foam Roll To Release A Tight Low Back?
Try to avoid direct foam rolling to the lower back (lumbar spine). Instead of using the roller perpendicular to the spine, position it parallel to the spine to target the upper- and mid-back. Target the glutes or sacrum area to loosen up your low back. You can reduce low back pain and increase mobility by targeting these muscles close to the back, while protecting your spine and kidneys.
In Your Experience As A Fitness Instructor, What Areas Of The Body Commonly Experience Tightness And How Would I Use My Foam Roller To Address It?
The legs, especially among runners, commonly experience tightness from overuse or extended use especially during training for longer races. You can use the foam roller in the following ways:
Calves: Place foam roller under the mid-calf. Cross the opposite leg over the top of the other to increase pressure. Place palms down next to hips, lift hips off the floor and slowly roll calf area to find the most tender spot. This is especially helpful for runners or people who wear high heeled shoes.
Outer hip & IT band: (Gluteus Medias/ Gluteus Minimis/ IT band) Lie on one side with the bottom elbow holding you up and the foam roller under the hip perpendicularly. Cross the top leg over the lower leg, bend knee and place that foot on the floor. Slowly roll from the hip joint down toward the knee to find the tender spot. It may seem awkward to move in this position as it is almost a crawl on one foot and one elbow. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Piriformis: Sit on top of the foam roller, toward the back of the hip, crossing one foot over the opposite knee. (Top leg should be bent.) Place pressure on the hip of the crossed leg. Slowly roll on the posterior hip area to find the tender spot. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Quads: Lay prone supporting yourself on elbows on top of foam roller, with the roller positioned perpendicularly under your quads and just above the knees. Slowly roll upwards towards hips and back toward knee.
Any Last Tips For Newbies?
If this is your first time experiencing myofascial therapy, start with a softer foam roller and slowly progress to a denser foam roller. Drinking plenty of water after a session will help accelerate the recovery process.
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Sheila Cordaro, owner of Cor Fit, is a certified personal trainer, group fitness trainer, and children’s fitness specialist in Arlington, Virginia. Cor Fit offers personal training and a variety of fitness classes. For more information on Cor Fit classes and training visit the website here.
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