Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Foam Roller

by Hamish Abbie for
After a long run don’t you just wish there was some way to iron out those tired, achy muscles?

Having a foam roller is like having your own live-in masseuse. They are arguably the most effective and easy-to-use tool available for releasing muscle tension and increasing the range of movement in a muscle. But like most pieces of equipment, if you don’t specifically understand what you are trying to achieve and how to achieve it, then you won’t get the desired results or maximum benefits.

How does Foam Rolling Help You?

Imagine your muscles are rubber bands. If you tie a knot in the band and stretch it to its maximum length,chances are that the band will snap or tear at one of its weakest points - on either side of the knot.

Your muscles constantly get bunched up in knots. They are those nasty points that are tender to touch and that keep you going back to the masseuse’s table.

No matter what your activity, certain muscles will gather tension. If you continue to load these muscles without making an effort to break it down, something will inevitably give. It may be that your posture suffers or possibly you will get joint pain as the bones are pulled out of optimal alignment. If you are lucky you’ll just be afflicted with a muscle strain or tear. There are no guarantees of how you will be affected but I can guarantee you are not going to like it.

Foam rollers are your insurance policy against injury.

Using a foam roller serves as self maintenance. If you care enough about your body and its ability to perform optimally, then you need to regularly maintain it. Muscle pulls, strains and tears can all be avoided by maintaining optimal flexibility and skeletal alignment through regular foam rolling, coupled with a personalised stretching programme. Once you have started using a foam roller you will wonder how you ever got by without it.

Foam Rolling Tips

· Use your foam roller before you stretch as this will release your myo-fascia and promote optimal muscle length when stretching.

· Experiment when using your foam roller, adjusting the foam roller and/or your body position to locate the position that gives you the best response.

· Always roll towards your heart as there is a risk of bursting blood vessels if you roll against venous flow.

· Try to foam roll every time you train using the foam roller as a preventative measure to maintain your range of motion and break down knots before they develop into bigger problems.

· Remember there is no substitute for quality when purchasing a foam roller. Cheap rollers will collapse over time, while a good quality one will be your friend for life.

Taking preventative measures to keep you muscles in good condition could save you a lot of pain and frustration, preventing the onset of common running ailments such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis and ITB syndrome. Being proactive and sensible is the key to a long and rewarding running future.