Last winter when I developed IT Band Syndrome, I talked about how after doing a lot of reading, people recommended getting a Foam Roller. So, after doing a lot of research I decided to go ahead and get one.
Since then, it seems like foam rolling is EVERYWHERE on the fitness sites. The newish P90X 2 series does a TON with foam rolling. I have learned to LOVE mine so I thought I would talk about it today.
So, what is the deal with foam rollers, anyway? Basically it is like getting a deep tissue massage, and is fantastic for sore, knotted muscles. It HURTS SO GOOD. A foam roller is usually made of a hard styrofoam material. It is rounded so that you can roll back and forth and work on your muscles. And BOY does it work your muscles!
They come in all shapes and sizes. The one I bought myself is short and wide:
Mine is the one in the middle.
And when I bought one for Marc, I ended up going with one that was longer and thinner:
I credit foam rolling - in part - with helping both of my IT Bands get stretched out and heal. After foam rolling, the muscles feel SO GOOD.
It does take some getting used to. At first, it hurts! You are rolling on muscles that often have knots - but that's where you want to concentrate. You work on those knots and get them all rubbed out and....AHHHHH...you won't believe how good that feels. The great thing about a foam roller is that you can roll youself - which means you get to control how much or how little pressure is applied, so you can be gentle with yourself to begin with.
So what do the experts say? In general, they agree that foam rolling can increase blood flow to muscles and improve flexability. They also agree that it is fantastic for working out the knots and strains. It can actually break down scar tissue allowing more flexability and less pain in a scarred area. Some sites indicate that foam rolling can actually increase the length of muscles, ligaments and tendons, although that seems to be a subject of debate even amongst experts.
Foam rollers are quite cheap - a hell of a lot cheaper then getting a massage several times a week!
I continue to roll my IT Band as a preventative measure even though, knock on wood, I haven't had problems in months.
I have recently developed a severe case of Achilles Tendonitis in my right leg. Because I have a 10K race tomorrow, I have been spending about 20 minutes every night while watching television foam rolling my achilles and calves.
Obviously, this is not a device just for runners. It is great for anyone who works out and/or has sore muscles that need to be worked out. You will notice the difference after only 1 or 2 sessions, trust me on that!