Foam Roller: If it doesn’t kill you, you’ll love it.

I heart my foam roller.  I also hate it.  I attended a seminar once where the speaker demonstrated using one.  He made several comments along the lines of “You know you’re in the right spot when it makes you want to cry” and “ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch”.  Having been introduced to the foam roller a few months previous, I could empathize with his pain.

At this point you may be thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?”.  Voila:

foam roller

You can use a foam roller as a tool to help massage sore muscles and fascia.   It uses your own body weight and so, is very effective.  They come in various sizes and diameters.  The one I use is 3 feet long and about 6 inches in diameter.  A foam roller can provide relief for sore muscles and also aid in injury prevention by maintaining mobility and flexibility.

I discovered this little torture device when I had issues with my iliotibial band.  Before I learned about the roller, I tried the stick.  It left me with the same pain plus bruises (in the shape of the beads on the stick – neat!  Not!).  Next, I tried stretching.  I consulted with yoga instructors and tried more stretching.  Then, I tried heat.  I tried ice.  I finally visited my doctor and was sent for physiotherapy.  Physio tried heat.  Physio tried cold.  They also used ultrasound to try to break up the fascia.  The results were barely noticeable.  Then (insert dramatic pause here), I discovered The Foam Roller.  I read about it at a fabulous running forum:  I hunted one down and the rest is history.

You may recall from an earlier post that I had lost my motivation to get my butt off the couch.  In an attempt to get back on track, I plunged right into a new routine and as a result I can’t walk down stairs without looking like I’m broken.  My quads feel slightly shredded.  My butt keeps reminding me it exists with just about every motion.  Partly out of fear of whether or not I will be able to move tomorrow,  I pulled out Big Blue (my roller is blue) tonight and tried to get some kinks out.  Apparently I’m a little more messed up than I thought as nearly every square centimetre brought new levels of pain.

The great thing about using a foam roller is that you use it for as long as you can tolerate it, as many times as you want (or don’t want).  I managed to get to both IT bands, both quads and my butt and then cried “mama!” and called it quits.  Having said that, I must say that this self-induced pain is the best pain I’ve ever experienced.  Not because I like pain.  Afterwords, my muscles feel looser; my flexibility is restored.  Think of it like really deep tissue massage from a massage therapist.  It hurts but it feels good too!

How do you use it?

Place it on the ground.  Choose a body part.  Let’s go with your quads for simplicity’s sake.  Lie on your stomach, with the roller positioned just at the top of your legs.  You should be on your elbows.  Slowly pull yourself forwards with your elbows, causing the roller to move towards your feet.  When you feel a tight spot (ie. pain), hold it.  Hold it for as long as you can or until you feel the spot dissipate.  If you’ve ever had trigger point massage, it’s the same idea as releasing a trigger point.  If you want to increase the pressure, stack on leg on top of the other.  By decreasing the surface area on the roller, more pressure will be exerted on the leg that is in contact with the roller.  A picture is worth 1000 words and to that end, check out the links below for visual demonstrations and some more technical explanations about how they work.  Oh, where can you get one?  Check out or your local fitness store.  If you decide to get one, make sure it’s really firm.  I’ve used soft squishy rollers and they just don’t give you the pressure you need to get results.

Foam Roller Exercises
I don’t necessarily agree with everything the “fitness expert” in this video has to say but her demos are good.  Click here.

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