Now that I have a desk job and I’m sitting for at least 8 hours a day, I’ve noticed that my hips, my back, and my legs are a lot tighter than normal.
I also have the worst posture known to man. This makes my muscles really tight!
Also, as a runner, injury prevention is very important topic to me. Like most other runners (and fitness gurus), getting injured is one of my biggest fears. Ever since I started using a foam roller a few years ago, I’ve been relatively injury free. I did have a major case of ITBS about a year ago, but the foam roller was actually one of the major tools in my recovery!
So what exactly is a foam roller and what is it used for?
Foam rollers are those white cylinders that you see piled up in the corners of a gym or possibly a yoga studio. A foam roller is a very simple piece of equipment (basically a cylinder made of high-density foam). Most people think they’re mainly used for self massage, but that isn’t necessarily true. They can be used for a variety of different purposes, such as stretching, body support, and stability exercises.
- Self-Massage Tool: Have you ever had a massage that really helped your troublesome areas? Well, try rolling that muscle or area on the foam roller. The idea behind the foam roller is that you use your own body weight to release knots in the muscle. It’s also A LOT cheaper than a massage! You can dictate what muscles you work and how long you work them, rather than having someone decide that for you.
- Stretching: One of the very nice things about using a foam roller as a support for stretching is that you have a curved surface to work on. They’re much more suitable for stretching rather than using a stability ball, which is high off the ground and can be unstable. You can find many creative ways to work a stretch off the foam roller with a little experimenting. I’m not the biggest stretcher, but it does help. Here’s a list of great stretches.
- Stability Exercises: Have you ever heard of Pilates? The idea behind Pilates is to strengthen your core using your own body weight on an unstable surface. When a person tries to maintain their balance on an unstable surface, all of the deep muscles of the back and abdomen (core muscles) are used and worked to maintain that balance. In return, it helps to strengthen your core muscles. A few great strength exercises to try are the plank and push-up. Here are some great ones to try.
So you want to buy one now right?
I use this bad boy!
It‘s a Triggerpoint Grid Foam Roller, but any $20 foam roller from Target or your local sporting goods store will do just fine. Foam rollers come in a variety of lengths and diameters. Any size will do for most exercises. Preferably, get one that is dense because it will give you a deeper massage.
Over time, foam rollers do tend to break down. They may become soft or have a permanent dent in the middle, which will lessen the effect of the massage. This is the main reason I bought the Triggerpoint Foam Roller! It doesn’t break down
I hope this post helped you understand what a foam roller is and what it is used for.
Stay tuned for part II where I will explain how to use it!