Maybe you know this, maybe you don’t, but MOTR (TM) is an acronym for Movement On the Roller. If you’re mind blown that the roller is not just an instability feature or MOTR TM arm storage, you’re not alone. Would you expect much less of a Pilates apparatus? Something that is functional, resilient and multipurpose. Something that you can build, lengthen and restore with. But is foam rolling really a big deal? Or necessary? Big deal- it should be! Necessary- yes.
Foam rolling is a self myofascial release- basically giving yourself a deep tissue massage. There are many benefits to foam rolling, and important to do it correctly. Studies show that athletes who foam roll are able to recover quicker, improve endurance and build strength in less time. But even more importantly, foam rolling improves mobility and flexibility, which, in turn, helps to prevent injury.
There are effective ways to roll, and using these tips can help you to maximize your recovery results:
Roll slowly- it’s gonna be pretty uncomfortable, but when you roll slowly you really have the opportunity to relax the muscles that may be tensing up, therefore being able to get deep and break up scar tissue.
Roll muscle groups: instead of just focusing on the area that has knots or is sore, roll surrounding areas. It’s likely that soreness involves tension imbalances, so by taking care of areas around the soreness, your muscles and tendons can work towards equilibrium.
Avoid rolling on joints: the purpose of foam rolling is to lubricate connective tissues and muscles, and allows for mobility through joints. However, it is important to stay off of your joints, spine included, while rolling. Staying on the meaty parts of your body is a great starting point to identify where you should be on the roller, then roll up and down the length of that muscle.
Stay on the sore parts: once you’ve identified a particularly tender area, stop rolling, and allow your body weight to sink onto the roller for 30-45 seconds. Releasing the muscles and weight around the sore areas can really help you get deep into the fascia.
Expect discomfort: Pain is never any good, but discomfort is okay! When just starting out, do as much as is tolerable. Just like any fitness routine, you’ll be able to tolerate more as you practice the process! A 20-30 minute rolling session is the long term goal.
Keep your core engaged: just like with any other part of movement, making sure that your abdominals are tight gives you the stability you need for your spine and joints. By doing so you never end up in a compromised position for your spine or joints.
Now that you understand how and why to roll, get to it! Start small, maybe once a week to make it part of your fitness habits, then gradually add more rolling sessions in. Rolling is okay to use as a warm up to exercising, but is most effective post workout. But just like any other element of fitness, it is more important to do it when you can instead of finding the perfect time!