Injury Management

Foam Rolling: Learn How and Why to Love it

female athlete foam rolling her IT band
Foam rolling the muscles helps them recover and helps you stay injury-free!

Those big rollers you’ve seen around may seem intimidating, but the truth is, they’re hugely beneficial. Foam rolling (technically called myofascial release) acts as a massage, smoothing out the fascia surrounding the muscle, allowing the muscle to function properly. And who doesn’t feel great after a massage?

Let us teach you the ins and outs (and ups and downs and all arounds)!

3 benefits of foam rolling

1. Foam rolling restores blood flow and oxygen while heating up the muscle. This helps the muscle to loosen, increasing the range of motion around the joint. This enhances muscle fiber recruitment — and your performance.

2. Foam rolling increases healthy length-tension relationships. When some muscles become overactive, they do the work that other muscles should be doing. By foam rolling the overactive muscle, it calms the muscle down allowing the proper muscle the opportunity to do its own work again. Uncorrected, improper length-tension relationships force our body to overcompensate, which can lead to break downs and injuries.

3. Foam rolling helps the body relax by calming, loosening, and warming up tired muscles. Remember that whole massage thing? So the next time your back feels tight, instead of stretching it, try foam rolling. You may be surprised by how great it feels.

 

How to foam roll

Place the foam roller on the desired muscle — most commonly the quads, glutes, lats, calves, and/or adductors (inner thighs). For instance, if you’re rolling your quads, place the roller at the top of your leg where the muscle connects to your hip bone. From there, slowly start to roll down. Once you feel a tender or tight spot, hold the roller on that area for 30 seconds to 1 minute — or until you feel that muscle start to relax. Once the muscle starts to give, continue rolling. Remember to breathe when you’ve found a knot. The more oxygen you can get to that muscle, the better.

Another technique that can help relax a tense muscle is called cross-friction. In this case, you move your body from side to side while the roller is on the trigger-point or knot.

In the beginning, you may experience pain while foam rolling. Adjust the amount of pressure on the foam roller with your body, and ease up on the pressure if the pain becomes too intense.

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What to avoid when foam rolling

While foam rolling is a big “do” in our book, there are a few “don’ts”:

  1. Do not roll on your lower back, behind your kneecap or directly on your I.T. band. (The I.T. band is a connective tissue that runs along the outside of your thigh, it is made up of fascia. It is the largest piece of fascia in the body.)
  2. Do not roll too fast. In order to gain benefits, you want to go at a slow, controlled pace. It’s similar to massage: you want to work into the muscle not just breeze over the top.
  3. Do not apply more pressure than you can handle.
  4. Do not stay on the knot for too long — stick to 30 seconds or a minute.

When to foam roll

Rolling before a workout is a great option. If you diffuse and smooth an overactive muscle prior to exercising, it will function and activate properly, allowing you to get the most out of your time and effort.

The great thing about foam rolling is you can do it as often as daily. The key to foam rolling is consistency. If you know you have a trouble spot, make an effort to roll that area more frequently.

Still a bit unsure of this foam rolling thing? Check out our on-demand videos for a demo of how to roll out your lower body and/or full body. And chat with your Gixo coach in your next class for pointers. You’ve got this! (And your overactive, sore muscles will thank you.)