If I was faced with the terrifying prospect of having to choose only one piece of fitness equipment to use for the rest of my days it would definitely be The Foam Roller.
My first encounter with the foam roller was not pleasant. In actual fact it was downright nasty.. and, like a pouty teenager, I vowed never to be re-introduced to this horrible piece of equipment ever again. Its blatant disregard for the tightness in my quads... the mocking it made of my tender glutes.. It was laughing and I was crying. But I persisted. I wasn’t going to let this rather bland looking thing get the better of me. And sure enough, after a while it actually started to feel good. Dare I even say... GREAT!!
If there is one phrase that I came to love as an eventual teacher and advocate of this bit of kit it was “…the more it hurts, the more you need it!!”
The Foam Roller does what you cannot. Even at its most basic level, simply lying on it with your tailbone at one end and your head at the other allows your shoulders to actually drop down below the level of your spine - something you physically cannot achieve lying on a horizontal surface. The stretch you feel to the front of the chest is BEYOND. The benefits to your body are countless. You can work out with it, stretch with it and use it as your own personal masseuse. It massages deep into the fasciae that cover your muscles to relieve built up tension. There are a thousand uses for this little guy and I am still experimenting with it to this day.
LEAH'S TOP 3 FOAM ROLLER EXERCISES
BACK MASSAGE (LUMBAR/THORACIC/CERVICAL)
Start sitting up, knees bent to 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor with hands interlaced behind your head. Place the roller behind you in the small of your back.
Slowly start to lean backwards and shift your weight onto the roller so your bottom lifts off the floor.
Gently start to roll up and down your back. Make sure you relax and allow your entire bodyweight to fall fully onto the roller.
Go as far up towards your neck and down to your lower back as you feel comfortable. Watch out for long hair though!!! You do NOT want to get it caught under the roller!!
Roll as far up your back as feels comfortable - you can pause at your shoulders and do a separate little massage in that area while you are up there!
ITB MASSAGE (ILIO-TIBIAL BAND)
Your ITB or Ilio-Tibial Band is the thick band of connective tissue that runs down the lateral (or outer side) of your thigh.. from your hip all the way down to your knee. Some lower back and also knee pain can be attributed to a tight ITB. This “massage” can help to alleviate tightness over time. Be warned… this hurts!!! There is no sugar-coating it.. but with persistence it starts to feel great!!! Lying on your side, place the roller horizontally at the top of your thigh just under your hip bone. Extend both legs so they are squeezing together and off the floor. Reach your arms as far away from your as you can basically drag yourself down the roller until it is at the top of your knee. DO NOT ROLL OVER YOUR KNEE. Then roll back up!! If the pain is too much then you can place your top foot on the floor in front of you and use that as a bit of leverage. Repeat 5 times each side.
CALF MASSAGE (GASTROCNEMIUS/SOLEUS)
When done slowly and methodically this calf massage really packs a punch. Sit upright with your hands flat on the floor beside you. Cross one leg over the other and place the roller at the top of the calf muscle, just under the back of the knee. Lift yourself up off the floor and shift your weight onto your calf. Start to roll yourself as slowly as you can down the belly of the muscle until you reach your ankle. Then roll back up just as slowly. Repeat twice more, then move onto the inner calf and finally the outer calf.