Why You Should Use a Foam Roller

Many of you have seen them: at the gym, at the chiropractor, yoga class, or maybe you’ve heard people talking about them.  So what’s all the hype about the giant foam rollers everyone seems to be using these days?

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It’s what some may say “hurts so good”.

Warming up your muscles before any physical activity is crucial to maintaining healthy muscles throughout not only strenuous, kick-ass workouts, but also during routine, daily activities.

Orthopaedic surgeon William Levine, MD, director of sports medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, explains that to increase range of motion and and to avoid injury, it is best to warm up properly before any stretching or exercise. “Warming up increases blood flow, which increases the temperature in the muscle, which makes the collagen fibers more elastic like a rubber band,” he says.

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In the morning, as well as before exercise, take the time to warm up and stretch your body. The great thing about the foam roller is that it helps you stretch muscles and break down tissues, mimicking a certain technique used by therapists called myofascial release. Facia is a thin tissue that covers every muscles and every fiber within each muscle. So at a basic level, when we stretch, we are actually stretching the fascia.

The foam roller also helps to decrease soreness and tightness as a form of recovery.

Myofascial release is done by placing pressure on the area that is tight and applies pressure to the area, lightly stretching it. Once the tissue relaxes, the therapist moves to the next tight area and performs the same pressure-stretch technique. The goal of this therapy is for the body’s muscle tension to equalize. When the body is not symmetrical, nerves and muscles can become compressed easily, causing pain.

The foam roller is a more individual approach to this tissue release. Self-myofascial release is excellent, because it allows the user control over the pressure and the pain. Users also then become responsible for the speed of their healing and recovery process.

1. Increases flexibility
One study concluded that using a foam roller for five minutes increased flexibility in the sit-and-reach test.

2. Reduces soreness and tightness
Another scientific study concludes that a foam roller is an effective recovery tool after exercise-induced muscle damage. Because the roller stretches the user’s muscles and tissues, it leads to an increased range of motion (ROM), making daily activities become more natural and easy.

3. Prevents injuries
Exercise can become bad for your body if you don’t take care of it. Specifically, your muscles develop knots through activity, and the knots lead to more injury and decreased mobility. Releasing the knots in muscles prevents them from becoming trigger points for injury.

4. It hurts so good!
Similar to a massage, the pain we feel during foam rolling may seem counter-active, but once you feel the magnificent results of the roller you won’t question it again! Also, if you maintain a good practice over time, foam rolling becomes less painful because the muscles and tissues are in better, flexible, shape.

The foam roller has recently become my favorite remedy of pain, alone with traditional stretching.

Stay happy and stretchy, folks. 🙂

☮ ✌

Music: One Good Thing

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain” Bob Marley – Trenchtown Rock

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I had finally talked myself into un-gluing my eyes from Breaking Bad, changing into my workout clothes and heading into the snow toward the gym, but once I was finally situated on the treadmill I realized that one vital piece of my workout wasn’t quite right: my headphones were broken! How was I ever going to run on that boring old treadmill without my meticulously-planned playlist pumping through the speakers? (Let me be honest in saying that it didn’t last very long.)

We’ve all figured out by now that living healthfully and well includes getting regular exercise. It’s convenient that cardio, strength training and CrossFit have become cultural norms, because their cool-factors sometimes influence participation. That’s excellent, because getting there is sometimes the hardest step.

So, you’re packing your gym bag– what do you need? A water bottle, a change of clothes and some headphones. As fitness programs become increasingly popular, the music industry is thriving in the gym too. Research is proving that music makes a healthier mind and body, including more focused and energized workouts.

Did you know music is linked to improved mental and physical performance?

This Washington Post article describes the significance of exercising with music, specifically in terms of beats per minute or BPM. The tempo of the music is said to cause a change in the tempo of the exercise.

Whether it’s keeping a running pace or finishing the last reps of a weight-lifting routine, listening to music helps to synchronize your mind and your body to the rhythm of the music.

Carl Foster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse, describes the important process as a metronome. He acknowledges that keeping the beat dates as far back as to the Roman rowers keeping pace of their rows by a drumbeat.

I have played competitive soccer for something like 18 years and I really enjoy staying active by running. Running is enjoyable for me but I’m not the best at it. Each year during pre-season my coach gives us a fitness test which includes running 2 miles at a specific pace. I train all summer and I never feel prepared for the test unless I put a specific 2-mile song on repeat. I have found that if my foot hits the ground in cadence with the tempo of the music, I can complete the run in just the right amount of time. (Shout-out to Chris Brown’s Look At Me Now for helping finish my 2-mile in less than 14 minutes)

Proof that it works? Maybe not scientifically, but I’m not a bad primary source.

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Music doesn’t just help keep a tempo, however, it’s also good for the mind. This slideshow from the Huffington Post describes 11 health benefits of music. Some of the items on the list include music’s ability to:

– Reduce stress and anxiety

– Boost heart health

– Help memory

– Protect your ears’ sound-processing abilities

– Soothe pain

– Improve stroke recovery

It’s important to keep in mind that all music isn’t suitable music for every occasion. Certain music may cause distraction or raise stress levels depending on its context.

Here is a link to another article that does a good job breaking down the different benefits and effects of listening to music – Health benefits of music

Why was I so bummed about one silly workout session without music? Because it helps fuel my energy, and your energy too. Music has been scientifically linked to increased physical performance and energy. The synchronization of mind and body make for a positive meditative experience. Instead of being distracted by details, music helps to create a focus during workouts.