Everyone knows the importance of fitness and overall wellness, yet we all tend to get caught up in fad products. Fitness models and trainers make it look and sound easy: Just buy this product, join this service, or pop this pill and look like the model on the left with the ripped abs and Hollywood smile. Of course, it never is that easy, and most fitness dabblers never look like a fitness model. In fact, most fad equipment ends up in a closet or a thrift store. However, if you look in the fitness models’ and trainers’ closets, you’ll see specific go-to equipment, and one of the mainstays of fitness professionals is a foam roller.
WHAT IS FOAM ROLLING AND WHEN DID IT BEGIN?
When healing or attempting to change, the body responds to specific motions, movements, and muscular triggers. Musculoskeletal pain is often a result of illness, injury, or overexertion. Janet Travell first introduced the term “myofascial,” used to describe this pain in medical literature, in the 1940s. It also described the pain syndrome and trigger points. Two decades later, the term “myofascial release” was being used in osteopathy.
More than 50 years later that phrase encompasses therapeutic practices for pain relief, accessing trigger points for potential pain, and breaking down soft tissue surrounding body weak points or even existing scar tissue to increase muscular growth. Regardless of need, a foam roller is often utilized to reach the desired effect. Foam rolling is thus the self-myofascial release option that involves rolling a large foam roller over a specific part of the body to manipulate the tissue and accelerate healing.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FOAM ROLLING?
Foam rollers came into play in the 1980s. They were designed for Broadway dancers who were prone to muscle strains and torn tendons. Utilizing the now known Feldenkrais method, dancers self-massaged their overly worked body parts after performing by standing or applying body weight to manipulate their massage.
Later, the technique was added to fitness training. To build muscle, body tissue must first tear. It’s that muscular scarring and layering that creates the girth and contouring we all find so appealing. Of course, too much scarring can lead to injury. Foam rolling helps in either case by breaking down the building scar tissue while aiding the muscular condition and repairing the injured tissue through self-myofascial muscular manipulation.
Runners or heavyset people can especially benefit from fascia repair. Plantar fasciitis is especially common in both cases. The thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot, otherwise known as the fascia, becomes worn easily. When that happens, severe and often debilitating pain starts seemingly out of nowhere. In many cases this leads to days or even weeks of bed rest or being out of the fitness circuit. Foam rolling helps rebuild that tissue, increase circulation, improve balance, and get you back into the fitness game faster.
WHO SHOULD BE FOAM ROLLING?
A better question would be who shouldn’t be foam rolling? Today’s modern lifestyle is full of stress. Regardless of whether you’re an overworked housewife or an NBA All-Star, injury and disease hit without warning. A foam roller is a simple, effective, and inexpensive staple that every household should have. Simply tripping over a rock in the yard can lead to shin splints or knee trouble. A foam roller acts as an in-home masseur by eliminating those daily stress knots.
Foam rolling helps increase flexibility, reduces the chance of injuries, and increases performance in activities such as yoga, stand-up paddle boarding, and HIIT workouts. It is also a great cool down after heavy workout or spot days. Try a leg day at the gym or home without foam rolling at the end. Then try it with foam rolling. You’ll never look at leg day the same way again. Of course it’s not a magic pill. Nothing will work on its own if you’re unwilling or unable to accept that real change takes effort, commitment, and time. Lifestyle changes, including a better diet and stress-reducing activities outside of the gym, are also essential elements.
With all the expensive gadgets and worthless products promising instant results, it’s hard to trust that something so simple does what it claims to do. But it goes beyond words and common sense. Science proves that foam rolling is truly a simple and beneficial self-myofascial therapeutic and muscular sculpting technique.