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Foam Rolling: Your Muscle Recovery’s New BFF

See that right there? It’s not a torture device or sadistic war club– it’s a foam roller. Foam rolling (or if you want to sound like a smarty-pants: SMFR–Self-Myifacial Release) has been a “secret weapon” up to now– something prescribed by rehabilitation docs, trainers and lovers of healing through pain.

Oh, yes– pain.

But we’ll get to that later. Right now, P90X2 is bringing the “I love it and dread it” foam roller to the forefront thanks to a deservedly focused emphasis on this awesome tool. Foam rolling looks funny and conjures up all kinds of NSFW comments but I can’t recommend the foam roller enough… and not just because P90X2 uses it. We’ve been using the foam roller around our place for a few years now thanks to my lady-Friend being introduced to it by way of an IT band injury. Foam rollers really, really work.

Here’s why in layman terms:

As you work your muscles, they push out waste that can collect in sheaths in your muscles. This irritates/restricts your muscle and can cause pain resulting from “knots”. They may not always be obvious either. Foam rolling is aimed finding those trigger points (and you’ll know them when you find them in places you didn’t realize they existed), digging into those areas and releasing that crap so your muscles can get back to business.

As an example, a few months ago I thought my shoulder had a problem… but after rolling through my forearm, found an acute pain I wasn’t even aware of. Once I rolled that area out over a couple days, the tension in my shoulder released. Why? It’s that kinetic chain I’m always referring to: the shoulder doesn’t act alone– it incorporates other muscles up the arm in many of its movements. Foam rolling helps sniff those “secret” problems out.

Breaking Down SMFR With Dr. Cheng

Dr. Mark Cheng, Beachbody’s physiology/Human Movement man, has written up a pretty fantastic breakdown on the foam roller, what it’s all about and why it’s a great idea. I can tell you our experience with foam rolling has been worth every grimace and “YOOOOW!” but here’s some great points from Doctor Cheng to back all that up. I refurbished his article (which you can find here) and placed it into two segments– one for the new and one for the vets and how SMFR can help both:

Newbies

I’ve covered the ins and outs of “workout soreness” in a lot of detail here and a lot of the same principles apply but let’s face it, if you’re just getting into fitness again, your body has had years to set itself in its ways, lose flexibility and let muscles go for a long vacation. If that’s the case, you’re going to “feel it” when you get back in. Don’t worry– it’s normal.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, then the several dozen squats, kicks, push-ups, or gingas that you did over the past day or two certainly placed a demand on your body that it hasn’t been used to. That means your muscles got a pump like they haven’t had in quite a while… 

…While some will tell you that the discomfort of soreness is nothing to concern yourself with [Ed. Note- Your Truly], others might use those aching muscles as an excuse to skip a day or two or three, derailing a solid start to a successful workout program. While pain is nothing to trifle with, as it can clearly lead to or indicate injury, don’t use it as justification to bail out on training.

Foam rolling can ease this initial discomfort and give those newly worked muscles some love.

Veterans:

If you’ve been working out for a while, you may gain a deeper appreciation for the foam roller and all its wonders. See, back in the day, I used to look at a massage as a “feel-good” touchy feely thing for relaxation. These days, I view massage as a tool that helps me perform. Gone are the days of the light Swedish Massage– now replaced by gritty, grunt and bear it deep tissue sports massages. While a deeper massage may sound uncomfortable, I love the way the foam roller delivers on these same principles and delivers massage intended to DO SOMETHING.

Even if you already work out with some regularity, a significant change in your routine can be enough to leave your body nice and achy… Muscles that “knot up” have trigger points [Dan Note- very small, targeted “pain centers” you may not realize until they’re touched and “triggered”]. Trigger points tend to be indicative of more chronic problems, either in movement or posture or exertion. These trigger points can occur at different depths, depending on which section of the muscle is being engaged most with the movements or exercises that are being performed. The fascial membrane that surrounds muscles or the muscle fibers themselves can contract. When the body senses that the level of exertion is above the contractile strength or endurance of the myo (muscular) or fascial tissues involved, the body knots up those fibers as a survival strategy. The only problem with that strategy is that those knots inhibit movement and cause pain.

If you’ve been working out for a while, you know what I’m talking about: those little “not-so-serious” aches and pains. As it is those aches and pains, if left to fester, can lead to chronic “overtraining” injury down the road.

Fix It With Foam Rolling

So new or veteran, you’re going to feel some aches and pains at some point. Foam Rolling is the way to even that out yourself:

Foam rolling helps address the problems of muscle congestion and trigger points by mechanically pressing into the muscle. That said, there are different types of rollers that best address the different problems you might face. A smooth, soft roller is generally more effective for the more superficial trigger points and for moving the metabolites out of congested muscles. A roller with uneven surfaces, such as the RumbleRoller™ [Dan Note- The RumbleRoller comes as part of the P90X2 Ultimate Package], is ideal for getting into the deeper trigger points and more deep tissue approaches.

Remember that “pain” thing we talked about earlier? Here’s more on that:

The important thing to remember in self-myofascial release is that rolling can feel uncomfortable at the outset. When you find the muscles that are congested or triggered up, the pressure of the roller may cause a bit of discomfort. Roll your body just to the edge of the discomfort. Focus on relaxing the muscles on the roller and breathe. As your nervous system responds to the pressure, it will learn to relax the trigger points on the roller and restore the contractile ability of the muscle…

…The muscles that are the most chronically uncomfortable are usually those that are paying the price for other muscles that either aren’t firing enough or are so knotted up that they’re not allowing proper movement. The trick to using your foam roller in the most effective manner is really to look for the places in your body that aren’t obviously hurting but are restricting your movement.

Don’t let the whole “discomfort” thing scare you off, you’ll feel incredible when it’s all said and done.

So there you have it– foam rolling or SMFR is where it’s at and plays a huge role in P90X2. Even better, it can play a huge role in recovery of any program you’re doing– I’m especially looking at You, Insanity and Insanity: The Asylum.

Looking for more info, support or someone to share rolling war stories with? Success grows exponentially with support. Stay on track and receive personal tips and advice by adding me as your free coach and mentor right here

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