It’s the end of your workout, you’ve kicked some serious butt and you’re exhausted. Or you’re at the end of your bootcamp/barre/kickboxing class du jour and that slow stretching music comes on. Now, if you’re like the majority of the people we teach, you’re more interested in grabbing a shower and getting to work on time than you are stretching. Too often at the gym, we see the poor little stretch corner full of foam rollers and other toys anxiously waiting to be used get left behind.
Today, we want to shed some light on the importance of stretching and foam rolling post sweat session. As two athletic females, we know the adverse effects of overtraining and under stretching all too well. Muscle imbalances, joint pain, tight IT bands and hip flexors can lead to some pretty serious injuries and most of them can be avoided by just a few minutes a day of proper stretching and foam rolling. Just as important as your post workout protein shake, stretching and foam rolling is your golden ticket to a stronger, faster, pain-free workout life.
Let’s talk about our favorite rehab tools and how to use them!
WTF is a foam roller?
The tool that was once only used by professional athletes, coaches, and physical therapists has finally become a rehab practice for people of all fitness levels. Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massaging to release the tension of tight and sore muscles. By using a foam roller, you’re applying pressure to areas that are tight and releasing tension and trigger points (knots that form in muscles). When you foam roll, you’re aiding your muscles back to their healthy, elastic former selves and you’ll be ready to perform better because of it.
But why does it HURT so bad?!
We know. It’s not necessarily the most pleasant experience. On any given night, you can find one of us laying across the living room floor, glass of wine in hand, crying and rolling out our IT bands (more on how to do that later). The cool thing about self-myofascial release is you’re in control of applying pressure to areas that are tight or painful. Our physical therapists have called this the “search and destroy” method. Remember, when you’re foam rolling you’re going to feel pain and discomfort, but it should never feel unbearable.
Do I do it before or after my workout?
Ideally, both. Foam rolling pre-workout as part of a dynamic warm-up will help get blood flowing to areas that may be lacking it, helps reduce tension in muscles and gets your body prepped to work. Post workout, foam rolling helps flush out blood that has pooled to the worked muscles (also known as lactic acid build-up) which will aid in limiting soreness and tightness.
Ok, let’s get rolling! Here are our 5 favorite foam roller exercises:
- IT band. Lay on your side. Place the roller right below your hip bone. Roll down the length of your thigh, stopping right before your knee. Use the search and destroy method here: if you find a painful spot slowing roll over it, targeting that specific zone until you feel a release. Do this for about a minute on each leg.
- Piriformis. (this is a sneaky little muscle found under the glute and can get really tight!) Place the roller under the center of your butt. Cross one knee over the other. You can use different positions of your body to target the piriformis and put as much or as little pressure as you need. Again, search and DESTROY. About a minute on each side.
- Quads. Place the foam roller under your hips and get into a plank position. From here, roll the length of your quad, stopping before the knee. You can lean into one leg at a time if you want. Remember, you control the pressure. Slow and steady wins the race here. Do this for about a minute.
- Calves. Sit on the floor, cross one leg over the other and place the foam roller under your calf. Press up onto your hands and roll back and forth. Roll on the inside and the outside of the muscle. Switch legs, do it again. 1 minute.
- Shins. This one is going to feel a little funky but it’s an amazing way to avoid shin splints. Get on all fours and place the foam roller directly under your shins. Roll all the way down to the ankle. You might need to continuously adjust your body positioning on this one to get the whole muscle. If your foam roller has points for extra trigger points, be careful with this one. A soft foam roller works best.
Other tools we love:
- The Stick. The Stick is kind of like a reverse foam roller. You basically sit down anywhere and apply the stick by rolling it up and down the quads, hamstrings, calves, etc to relieve sore muscles. We basically use it when we’re too lazy to get down on the ground and roll it out with a foam roller.
- A Large Softball. We love (well… maybe love is the wrong term) using a softball to release tight hip flexors and piriformis. Laying down on your stomach and placing the softball under your hip flexor while slowly rolling in a circle will loosen up tight hip flexors. Trust us when we say, there’s nothing worse than a torn labrum in your hip… we’ve been there!
Have any tools your love to get your stretch on with? Share with us!
Until next time, happy rolling friends!
Lindsey + Amber