Happy Snow Day, my fellow New Yorker’s! Since it’s crazy snow time outside, I thought I would take this day I have stuck inside to fill you in on the wonderful world of foam rolling (aka SMR-self myofascial release). Oh yes, it IS a magical place to be.
This past Friday and Saturday, I attended at 20 hour National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) workshop to further my education with the most current research available in the fitness industry, and to help me to obtain my re-certification as an NASM certified personal trainer. It was an intense two days, but I definitely felt inspired and excited to share my new (and renewed) knowledge with my clients and in this blog.
One aspect of the workshop that I really struck a chord with me was the segment on flexibility-training. Flexibility is often an aspect of the workout that most people tend to neglect. I know I do. It’s tedious, often boring, and I know I usually feel that I cold be doing more worthwhile things like, say, actually working out and burning some calories. The problem is, without incorporating flexibility into our fitness regimes, our muscles cannot work in their most optimal positions and therefore, you aren’t getting the most out of your workout. Most people experience muscular imbalances that result from pattern overload. Pattern overload is defined as “repetitive physical activity that moves through the same patterns of motion, placing the same stresses on the body over a period of time.” For example, if you are a runner and doing nothing else but running, you will be doing the same routine repetitively. This routine may lead to a pattern that places abnormal stresses on the body which will in turn lead to muscle imbalances. This is where flexibility-training can come into play and Foam Rolling is a form of flexibility-training.
Foam Rolling, also called self-myofascial release, is a flexibility technique where you roll your muscles over a cylindrical piece of foam (foam roll) using your body pressure to massage micro-adhesions (knots) in the tissue that surrounds and separates muscle tissue. ”By applying gentle force to an adhesion or ‘knot,’ the elastic muscle fibers are altered from a bundled position (that causes the adhesion) into a straighter alignment with the direction of the muscle and/or fascia.” Basically, if you foam roll out the tight muscles in your body, they will work much more efficiently and correctly to make your workout the best it can be.
You might have seen a foam roll at the gym and had no idea what it was…Here’s a picture of some foam rollers and then an example of someone using a foam roll.You can foam roll just about every muscle in your body. It will probably be uncomfortable but don’t worry, it’s supposed to be. Think of it as the equivalent of getting a deep tissue massage. The objective is to “search and destroy” (as one of our instructors at the workshop explained) the tender spots in your muscles and the sustain pressure on the spot for a minimum of 20-30 seconds. It may take longer, depending upon your ability to consciously relax.
If you have a (good) trainer, ask them to do an assessment with you to figure out which muscles in your body are short and tight and which are long and weak. If you don’t have a trainer, you can usually tell which muscles are tight, but you might actually have neurological tightness which is different from physical tightness. You may THINK the muscle is tight when it is in fact, long and weak. Not to confuse you or anything!
Without a trainer, you can still feel out your body and roll your calves, hamstrings, quads, lats, back (try to stay away from the lower part of the back and focus on the upper), hip-flexors, IT Bands, etc. Think search and destroy mission! Find those knots and get crackin’! Here are some examples of what muscles might be ideal for most people to foam roll: If you are a woman and wear heels daily, it’s probably best to roll out your calf muscles. If you run a lot, IT Bands (the muscles that run down the outer sides of your legs) are probably pretty tight. Those are gonna hurt so take it slowly! Lats (the muscles in your back near your armpits) are usually tight on most people so give that a try. Also, a lot of people hold tension in their upper backs and shoulders…roll the upper back out as well (the picture above of the woman using a foam roll is an example of how you would do that)! Give it a try and I bet you will feel less pain in your workouts to come. As always, if you have any questions, please ask!
Enjoy your day and Be Well!