Looking around, a lot of the current messaging associated with fitness is about stronger and bigger muscles, tougher workouts, and an increased obsession for extreme levels of fitness: think CrossFit, Spartan Race, and Tough Mudder. The world of fitness has come a long way since aerobics in the 80s with Jane Fonda or tae bo in the 90s with Billy Blanks.
Personally, I think what’s not talked about enough in today’s challenge hungry fitness world is the importance of rest and recovery. This might be a recurring topic in my blog, but it’s because I believe that for most of us, not enough time or attention is spent on rest and recovery. One of my favorite ways to spend recovering is using my foam roller. There’s a variety of foam rollers available out there. Different sizes and shapes. What I think it comes down to is preference and pain tolerance.
First, let me briefly explain anatomically what goes on under our skin and why foam rolling is a superhero in recovery. Introducing the fascia, “a densely woven, specialized system of connective tissue that covers and unites all of the body’s compartments” or simply put, the facia is this awesome family of tissues that helps our muscles stay contained within the right areas. It helps our muscles move in the right direction and function correctly. With the type of strains working out places on our bodies, especially higher intensity workouts, the fascia can become tight and therefore restricted in its range of movement.
Foam rolling helps the fascia and surrounding muscles in a couple of very important ways:
1 Reduces muscles tension
Reducing muscle tension is key to performance, because stiff muscles can mean shorter time to fatigue and therefore suffered performance.
2 Helps to increase flexibility and therefore increases range of movement of the muscles
By applying pressure through the use of a foam roller or a ball, the muscles are forced to relax. The tension we implement to our muscles, specifically the relationship between tense to relaxation is a key component to keeping our muscles happy and working at optimum levels.
3 Improves arterial function and therefore the delivery of blood to our muscle tissues
Let’s not forget what goes on deep in our bodies every time we move. Good blood flow is necessary in order to maintain proper muscle movement and function. Blood is what oxygenates our muscles. Inadequate delivery of oxygen to our muscles equals impaired performance and shorter time to fatigue.
Source: Bryant, Cedric X., and Daniel J. Green. ACE Personal Trainer Manual: The Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals. 5th ed. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise, n.d. Print.