Written by: Sarah Schultz, MS, LAT, Agnesian HealthCare Sports & Spine Center, Fond du Lac
What do you do when your muscles are really sore after a hard workout? Please don’t tell me you lay in bed!
One great way to assist with muscle recovery is to use a foam roller. Foam rollers come in many shapes, sizes and colors; the most common is a 6”x36”. White rollers are often a lesser quality that easily compress under your body weight. Blue and black rollers tend to be a higher density, higher quality foam that can withstand body weight and not deform as easily. High density foam rollers also tend to hurt more…so if you are new to this you may want to start with a low-density (white) roll and progress to a denser one as your tissue quality gets better.
What do you do with these rollers? Basically you are doing a cheap and easy form of self-massage. You lie on the roller and move your body over it help release muscle tension and increase flexibility of the tissue, “rolling the tissue.” The pressure can help decrease muscle stiffness/soreness, increase joint range of motion and make your tissue more pliable. These methods also improve blood flow to the muscles, release relaxation hormones and decrease stress hormone levels.
Some of the areas you can use foam roll are on your back, glutes, hamstrings, calves, IT Band, quads, groin and lats. You begin with one body part, and roll back and forth on it for 30 to 60 seconds. It does take a few “strokes” to loosen the tissues on top in order to get to the deeper muscles where more tension may occur. If you find a sore spot, you may lay on that area for up to 10 seconds, trying to elicit a relaxation from the spasm. Then follow up with a few long strokes to flush the tissue.
Perform these exercises two to three times a week to notice a change in tissue quality and especially after a hard or intense workout. With the roller, the general rule of the thumb is “the more it hurts, the more it needs to be worked.” You should notice the pain decreasing each time you do these exercises. However, really tight areas may take longer to loosen up. Get the most benefits by performing static stretches after using the roller.