I’ll be honest – a foam roller saved my life. Not literally of course, but it did make a huge impact. Back when I interviewed Carrie Lucero of Road Runner Sports, we were talking about everything running related, and she asked me about foam rollers. I told her that I had never heard of a foam roller. She looked at me quizzically. Here we were, half-way through an interview, and suddenly she must have been thinking “This guy runs a fitness website and has no idea WTF a foam roller is?”
It was pretty embarrassing. But we continued with the interview, and I promised to buy a foam roller. She told me it would help reduce the IT Band issues that I was having. And after just a week, my IT Band issues were gone. And I have been a fan of foam rollers ever since.
How do they work?
Think of it as a self-induced massage. Rather than having a masseuse deliver targeted pressure to your muscles, you’re inverting the situation. You’re balancing your body weight on a small area (the foam roller), and that provides the necessary pressure. As contributor Anthony Harrell explained in his article, “Got Back Pain?“, when you’re using a foam roller, you’re performing a “self-myofascial release technique” (sounds pretty naughty – but we verified its SFW status). Over time and with excessive exertion, soft tissue (like muscles) become short, tight and sore. Massaging the tissue helps to lengthen and relax the muscles, which will help with recovery AND performance. All good things. But the most important thing is – it just feels good. The feeling is very comparable to hopping into the shower when you have poison oak. Scalding hot water on poison oak produces this bizarre feeling of both pain and pleasure.
The foam roller is a bit like that, but definitely dialed down a couple notches.
When Should I Use Them?
Before and/or after a workout. My IT Band would act like a dog that knew it was going to the vet. It would be fine throughout the day, but the second the running shoes came out – BAM – sudden pain. It was the weirdest thing. But spending five minutes on the foam roller, targeting the sides of both of my knees, as well as my hamstrings, really made a difference.
Youtube has a slew of videos that you can check out to target specific areas. For me, I have had the most success using it on my legs to target sore quads, hamstrings, and my IT band. I have found it to be less successful at alleviating tension in my lower back, but that might be an issue of form rather than an indictment of the roller’s effectiveness.
All that being said, the foam roller is a relatively inexpensive addition to your arsenal of recovery products, and if you’re regularly following our programs, you’re going to need one!
Amazon has got you covered. Check out some of these options.
For more advice on injury prevention and recovery, check out the “Hotshot Fitness Rehab Kit” for our recommendations on products that will keep you #FireReady.