Nutrition

A Guide to Foam Rolling

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foam rolling post workout

Image: Bret Contreras

Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is basically just a way to self-massage. Massaging is essential for anyone who is active, weight-training, or involved in any form of extreme physical activity. Many people think of massages as personal indulgences, but they are crucial to your overall health. Unfortunately, seeing a massage therapist on a regular basis can be difficult to squeeze into a budget. Fortunately for us, foam rollers are an affordable way to lightly massage on a daily basis. Foam rollers are capable of releasing muscle tightness and trigger points. As foam rollers help with the post-workout recovery process, they are reducing the level of soreness you will feel one or two days after your activity. If you get in the habit of using a foam roller after every time you exercise, then you will be able to function more easily off of normal-feeling muscles even after a tough workout. While foam rolling can not equate to the full benefits of a deep tissue massage, it is still a method that will help you take care of your body.

Foam rolling should release your trigger points, which are important to release for better overall performance. Trigger points are knots in your muscles that hurt when pressure is applied to them. You can tell when there is a knot because you will feel the pain in another area when you press on the trigger point. Don’t be alarmed if foam rolling is slightly uncomfortable. Massages are not always relaxing—in fact, they are often painful! If you feel pain while foam rolling, then you’re getting the job done. If you feel searing or sharp pains, see a physician or physical therapist before continuing to foam roll.

This practice should be used in addition to stretching. Stretching alone, even for a long time, can not compare to the benefits of foam rolling, but both are necessary for optimal health. Stretching prevents injuries and releases muscle tightness, but it cannot eliminate knots. Imagine a knot in a resistance band. When the band is stretched the knot gets smaller, but the knot is still there. The pressure that foam rolling adds is crucial to release any knots.

Gone are the teenage days when we could perform an intense workout for forty minutes, forget to stretch, and feel good as new the next day. In order to take the best care of ourselves and ensure that will we be able to stay active for numerous years to come, foam rolling is essential.

Kate Wilke is the content manager at 301brands, and she's the editor of DailyBeautyHack.com, and the lifestyle editor at OhMyVeggies.com. When she's not paddle boarding or skiing, she's informing someone about global warming (or cats) over a local double IPA. Follow her on Instagram — @kateewilke