I hear it from my clients all the time, “Ugh, but I hate foam rolling! It hurts and it’s boring!”. Ironically, it mostly comes from the ones that need it the most… I usually reply with something like “Well you hate burpees too and you’re going to wind up doing those at some point” or “If it hurts that means you need it!”.
Truth be told, one of the last things I want to do as a coach is stand there and watch a client roll out because I want to get to the fun stuff too. This is why I always recommend that they spend some time on it at home ahead of time or at least show up 5-10 minutes early and do it before our session. If they don’t then I have to make them. It’s my responsibility! I’ll just wind up grabbing one for myself and do it at the same time and kill two birds with one stone.
I can still remember way back in the day before I would use a foam roller. I was still a coach back then working at a big box gym. I would see the rollers lying around the gym or even getting some usage every now and again and would think to myself, “How the hell is that thing gonna get you stronger? Keep it!” It wasn’t until I was at a weekend personal training seminar that I was properly introduced to one. The instructor talked about what it did and why it was important and blah, blah, blah. He then passed them out to everyone and had us all roll out one of the most common spots to use it on, our IT bands. In my head I snatched it out of his hand and said “fine, gimme that thing so I can get this over with”. I really just took it from him gently, gave a light smile and said thank you. Keep in mind I was a dude in his mid twenties who felt he was at the peak of his powers, thought every component of fitness was easy to do, and at the time could probably have back-squatted a Volkswagen. As soon as I let my body weight sink into that thing I yelped like a puppy that got his tail accidently stepped on. PeopIe heard me too, I no longer felt as tough…
Over the years I’ve learned the importance of foam rolling through trial and error. On days when I used it before my workout I felt more mobile, less soreness during my sets, and more prepared for my workouts overall. On days that I didn’t, well, those usually didn’t go as planned… I now can hardly start my day without one! Foam rolling opens a temporary window for positive change in your muscles. By rolling out ahead of your workout you are allowing yourself the opportunity to activate more muscle fibers which will ultimately help get you stronger and more functional. There are many other benefits, as well, like helping increase circulation, warming up more efficiently, even recovering from injury, to name a few. It’s particularly important to foam roll before static and dynamic stretching because of the elasticity in our muscles. Consider putting an elastic into your freezer. Let is sit for a while then take in out and try to stretch it out. In all likelihood the elastic will snap. Now, if you were to take it out of the freezer then gently roll it around in your hands for a while until it warmed up, you’d be able to stretch out without issue. This is the same concept as foam rolling your muscles before working out or stretching. As “boring” as it may seem, get one and get on it! You can do it after your workout too, there are osme benefits, or even at home during the commercials of your favorite TV show. Just do it!
If you’re new to using a foam roller you should choose one with a softer density. You don’t have to focus on how much time you’re spending on a certain area and can instead do “reps” of rolling back and forth on a particular area. I suggest at least 10-15 times. Be sure to roll the entire length of the muscle. If you haveto choose which muscles to start on or have very little time I would say choose your hip flexors, IT bands, and calves. Everyone hates rolling their calves, including me. But everytime you take a step your calves are working before everyone else so show them some love! You should eventually be focusing on your quads, glutes, adductors (inner thighs), back, lats, and shins. There isn’t anywhere that you can’t use it on, really, just make sure you’re rolling over muscle and not bone. Remember, as hard as it may be at first try to relax your body into the roller. If you feel any sort of stabbing or searing pain stop or take some pressure off. The pain from foam rolling should “hurt so good” so listen to your body. You can buy one with a click of a button on almost any fitness equipment website or even Amazon so there’s no excuse!
Enjoy your new found range of motion and faster recovery time!