A highly effective, if a little unlikely, tool to add to our toolbox of health is a foam roller!
In current economic times having a regular massage to de-stress and relieve tight muscles may have had to go out the window, but that is where the humble foam roller can help.
Personally I used to see them piled in the corner of the gym and not go near them, choosing to do yoga stretches as part of my cool down, but the foam roller has now become something I use daily to combat tight and tired muscles.
Our bodies hold both physical and emotional stress which manifests itself in shortened muscles, rising shoulders and tight hips amongst other things, so a cheap and easy way of working on these areas on a daily basis to prevent injury is with a foam roller.
Fascia has been the bodywork buzz word for a while now and put simply fascia is the network of connective tissue that holds everything in place in your body. It runs from your head to your feet continuously. Fascia is made up of collagen and elastin fibres. Like anything in the body fascia is prone to weakness or injury when put under stress by both physical and emotional factors. The fascia can become glued up which can lead to tight spots and sometimes pain as other parts of the body start to be pulled and strained to compensate.
You can do your own myofascial release with the foam roller in the comfort of your own home and without spending a fortune. Myofascial release is about time, so find the painful spot and lean your body weight into it on the foam roller and breath. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds depending on what you can take but breathing deeply during this process will really help the spot to release and the pain start to dissipate.
The roller can be rolled up and down the muscle to aid in lengthening and also you can use it to stretch, spending up to a minute relaxing in certain positions to stretch areas like the quads or the pectorals.
I have found using a foam roller regularly has definitely helped to increase my stability, balance, body awareness and alignment as well as keeping tight muscles in check. It is a cheap tool to have on hand so tensions and tightness don't get a chance to build up and impact your normal activities or your health.
So next time you are in the gym go and liberate a foam roller from the corner and experiment with it - below is a link to some examples to get you started. Happy rolling!