While I am a big believer in adding stretches to my workout routine, sometimes stretching isn’t enough to work the soreness and stiffness out of my body. I have used a foam roller for a few years now, and while this tool is pretty popular in the endurance running community, it isn’t as well known outside of it.
If you have never heard of foam rollers, they are tubes of thick foam that are usually a couple of feet long and about 6-7” in diameter. These tubes can be completely foam or be overlaid on a thick PVC tube. There are also ones with ridges, while others are smooth. I consider most of these differences cosmetic and personally use an all-foam roller that is smooth.
Reasons to Start Foam Rolling
Now that you have a clear idea what a foam roller is let’s jump right into the seven reasons why you should start foam rolling today.
1. Support Your Exercise Recovery
No one wants to deal with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), yet many people consider it an inevitable consequence of working out and improving your fitness. Well, you can support your recovery process and reduce DOMS by using a foam roller.
A recent study took a group of healthy young men and had them perform dynamic exercises that often lead to DOMS, such as sprinting and dynamic strength endurance. Those who used the foam roller to work their muscles experienced faster recovery times and improved workout performances.
If you have been stalled by trying to start a workout routine because of DOMS then had your routine derailed because you were too stiff to move, it may be time to add a foam roller to your exercise routine.
2. Boost Flexibility And Range Of Motion
Even if you aren’t experiencing active soreness that is limiting your range of motion or flexibility, without actively supporting your flexibility, you can have both your flexibility and range of motion reduced. Runners, weightlifters, and other endurance-intensive exercisers are particularly vulnerable to losing flexibility and limiting their range of motion, due to how their muscles develop and ligaments tighten over repeated workouts.
By using a foam roller, you can perform self-myofascial releases on yourself, which will allow you to manipulate stiffened areas of your body. Once these points of tension are released, you can regain greater flexibility and range of motion.
3. Help Prevent Future Injuries
Combining the benefits of faster recovery with greater flexibility, the regular use of a foam roller can assist in preventing you from experiencing future injuries. Often, exercise-related injuries are due to overly tight muscles and ligaments, or because your flexibility and range of motion have become compromised. Yet, if you are regularly using a foam roller, you can alleviate all of these issues.
When I say you should be regularly using a foam roller, this statement can mean different things depending on what kind of workouts you do and how often you do them. If your workouts are generally 30 minutes or less, you likely can stick to using your foam roller 2-3 times a week to help supplement your routine.
But if you are in a training cycle and exercising seriously 5 or more days of the week for over 45 minutes, you may want to step up your foam rolling to support your exercise routine. Rolling every other day can help break up the tension that builds in your muscles and help you tackle your workouts with less of a chance of developing a muscle- or tendon-related injury.
4. Save Money By Working Out Your Soreness At Home
Some people turn to massages for relief from sore, aching muscles. However, when you work out regularly, going in for massages even once a week can add up quickly. Instead of throwing tons of money at what are likely painful massage sessions, you can pick up a foam roller.
Frankly, that is one of the major appeals of a foam roller for me. You can find foam rollers everywhere, from on Amazon to your local sporting goods store. Most rollers will range from $10-$25 depending on the materials, but even if you want to treat yourself to a fancy foam roller, they will generally be around $100, which is about the cost of an hour and a half massage. No matter what you choose, your foam roller is an easy investment in your continued health.
5. Turn Your Foam Roller Into A Workout Tool
Along with using your foam roller to help roll out your muscle soreness, a roller can do double duty and be used as an exercise tool. There are many foam rollers exercises available that you can try out and see which ones help you target the areas you want to tone up.
Also, if you have been looking for cross-training ideas, doing foam roller exercises can be ideal. Not only will you get more use out of your foam roller, but you can also segway your foam roller workout into a muscle rolling session.
6. Improve Circulation
Your blood flow can become restricted as you exercise, especially as knots of tension form in your muscles. To help boost your circulation—which will assist with a faster recovery—you can use a foam roller to release the tension in these areas.
However, be sure that you don’t just repeatedly roll over your knots while foam rolling. By doing this, you can actually bruise yourself and lead to more soreness. Instead, while you can foam roll over the restricted area, you should also work the surrounding tissue so that you can more easily release the tension.
Also, as you are looking to boost your circulation with foam rolling, be sure you are eating enough hydrating foods. It’s tough for your circulation to improve if you don’t support it with the right level of hydration, so be sure to include some of the most hydrating foods.
Much like how you feel after a good stretching session or massage, you can enjoy the relief from bodily-induced stress when you use a foam roller.
7. Release Stress As You Roll
This release from stress is particularly important if you work a job that requires you to sit for large amounts of time. Sitting can take its toll on your body, especially if you have less than perfect posture—and let’s face it, most of us don’t have the best posture. But by using a foam roller, you can loosen up cramped muscles that have been stuck in a sitting position and move more freely.
As you use your foam roller, be sure to listen to your body so that you can reap the most benefits of using your foam roller.