Are you Foam Rolling? Do you know what it is? Let us show you how.
You’ve heard of it, but is it for you? And if it is, how do you do it? Do you get painful knees? Do you have tight muscles in your thighs which don’t seem to loosen up from stretching alone? Foam rolling is your answer!
Foam rolling is a form of myofascial release. The fascia is a connective tissue which links the body into one interconnected system. Foam rolling can be an uncomfortable experience, particularly for those with crazy tight muscles, but regular use will become easier and the results are worth it. Essentially, this is a deep tissue massage you can do to yourself at home!
What is a foam roller and where can I get one?
A foam roller is a roll of foam (yeap…), that comes in various densities and lengths. I recommend a foam roller of medium hardness and approximately a metre in length (it is much easier to roll your back and chest), to start with. If you find it too hard, wrap it in a towel or blanket to soften it a little. You will get used to it! Alternatively, if you desperately want to give it a go but don’t have a foam roller, find a rolling pin and wrap it in a towel and it’ll do the same job. The best ‘makeshift’ foam roller would be to use PVC piping like drain pipes etc wrapped in a softer material like a towel.
I post this with a little trepidation because I know that foam rolling is a little of a love hate relationship. It HURTS, BUT it works and you feel instantly looser due to the massage and increased blood flow. If you suffer from knee pain which is not due to an injury, foam rolling and strengthening exercises will most likely make this pain a thing of the past! Try it yourself, spend 5 minutes foam rolling each leg and then stand up and try out some squats again. I am certain that your legs will feel better!
So how do you actually do it?
Foam Rolling Level 1 – two legs
Start lying on the foam roller on your front with the roller just above your knees (not on top of your knee cap, you never want to foam roll your knee cap). Gently roll back and forth, up and down your leg. Any really tight areas you come to, just sit there for 20/30 seconds, and as you feel the muscle loosen you can rock gently from side to side. You will probably feel the muscles clicking as you roll over tight knots. Clicking is normal, although at first it does feel a little odd. Slowly move up to your hips, but not over the bones. This will improve the blood flow through your quads and hip flexors.
Foam Rolling Level 2 – one leg at a time
Bend one knee and place that foot on the floor, all the weight should be in the leg which is now lying on the foam roller. This will put more pressure into the roller and massage deeper into your thigh. Using the same process as above, move gently and slowly from just above the knee to the hip bone and back down. Every time you come to a knot (it will feel like a lump and it will be more tight and sore than other spots), sit there for half a minute or so, until it loosens a little and then roll gently from left to right and you will feel the knot slowly click and release out. Try to focus on deep breathing to help you relax. When you have had enough, gently move further along your leg. Try to spend 5 minutes foam rolling each leg, although you might need to build up to this.
Foam Rolling Level 3 – The ITB
Ok so this one is really rather uncomfortable, I am sorry! BUT it is also really beneficial. The ITB is a band of fascia which runs from along the outside (lateral part) of your thigh from above the hip to below the knee cap helping to stabilise the knee joint. When it is tight it starts to pull the knee cap (patella) upwards, out of place. The movement puts added stress on the ligaments and tendons which hold the patella in place, causing knee pain.
To foam roll your ITB, start in the same position as level 2 with one leg on the foam roller and the other flat on the floor as support. Gently roll forward so your body is at a 45 degree angle to the floor. As you roll up and down your leg you will be rolling along your ITB. As before, do not go over your knee or hip bones. You will also find a bone on the outside of your femur named the greater trochanter. This bone is a protrusion out from the femur bone which provides a major insertion point for the lower leg muscles and as such is extremely uncomfortable to foam roll over!
This technique can be used for muscles all over the legs. Move into a position where you can feel the muscles being rolled and this will help remove the knots. Be gentle with yourself and keep breathing.
Remember to always drink lots of water and move around after you foam roll to stimulate blood flow throughout the body. Regular foam rolling will get easier and less painful resulting in reduced joint injuries and aches and pains. Get out your foam roller and leave it in the lounge to use while the ads are on or while you are waiting for dinner to cook! Try to spend 5 – 10 minutes foam rolling 3 or 4 times a week, daily would be amazing! Here at The Active Lifestyle, foam rolling is a very important part of a warm up and also cool down, depending predominantly on what muscles were used in the session or where you may feel tight.
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