The Right Way to Foam Roll

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this tweet from me last Friday afternoon:

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I bought my foam roller a little over a year ago, and I have since used it incorrectly. Great job with that foam roller, Tina.

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As you probably remember, I spent last Friday and Saturday at a live workshop with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) to get some hands-on experience in preparation for taking the personal trainer certification exam. After a long morning lecture about flexibility training and foam rolling (aka self-myofascial release), we took to the floor to put these concepts into practice.

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You probably already know this, but just in case you don’t, foam rolling is a flexibility technique where you roll your muscles over a cylindrical piece of foam using your body pressure to massage knots out of your muscles. “By applying gentle force to an adhesion or ”˜knot,’ the elastic muscle fibers are altered from a bundled position (that causes the adhesion) into a straighter alignment with the direction of the muscle.” [source] Basically, if you foam roll the tight muscle, it will help restore the fibers back to an optimal level of function and your muscle will work much more efficiently.

That sounds well and good, right? Well, technically, rolling the muscle isn’t the best way to get out those knots.

Ok, let’s stop and think about what rolling an angry, tight muscle probably does to it. Yep, that’s right. Rolling a hard hunk of foam over your already pissed-off muscles probably isn’t going to make them better. (I’ve only ever rolled my muscles with a foam roller, so this information was news to me!)

Instead of rolling the foam roller over your muscle, you want to “search and destroy” (as the instructor at the workshop explained) the tender spots in your muscles and hold (not roll) that pressure for a minimum of 30 seconds. (It may take longer, depending on your ability to consciously relax your muscle. If it doesn’t seem like you’re making progress on a tight spot, contract the muscle and then relax it. You should definitely feel something then!)

Ok, here’s a great example of how to foam roll your calves:

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Place a foam roller under one leg, positioned under the middle of your calf. Take the opposite leg and lay it beside the leg on the foam roller, or to increase pressure, cross the opposite leg over the top of the leg on the foam roller. Slowly roll up and down the calf muscle searching for a tender spot to “destroy” and then apply pressure to it. Does that make sense? Don’t roll the tender spot; just apply pressure until you feel the knot relax.

So, guys, no more rolling with your foam roller. Got it? Good. If you have questions, let me know!

Snack

After breakfast, I went to NuVal for a few hours. I always get hungry for a snack around 10:00/10:30, so I grabbed a protein shake for the road. In the mix: vanilla protein powder, canned pumpkin, chocolate almond milk, and pumpkin pie spice. The flavor reminded me a lot of my Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf! Mmm!

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Lunch

After my time at NuVal, I headed home for lunch. On the menu: chicken salad with red grapes, celery, and mayo. Isn’t this the best way to eat chicken salad? I think so. I added the chicken salad to some mixed greens for extra volume and nutrients.

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On the side, I had a whole wheat Bagel Thin with peanut butter and chocolate chips on top.

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I also drank a mini chocolate-flavored Zico coconut water. I’m having some serious chocolate cravings today. Give me chocolate!!!

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I’m off to walk the pug! He’s got ants in his pug pants today!

91 Comments

  1. Woohoo I”ve been rolling the right way! I have always just thought of it as a “deep tissue massage” or an accupressure treatment – you find the knots, hold pressure on it and then rub it out after 30 seconds to a minute. Otherwise your muscles haaate you! I’m sure there are so many people out there doing it wrong. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yep, you’re right! I’ve been foam rolling for years and although the “rolling” part always feel good, the part where I stay on a spot is always excruciating. But I know that it’s good for me

    I take my foam roller with me everywhere. Oh, and a tennis ball…they work really well 🙂

  3. OH my goodness- I’ve been wanting to buy a foam roller and if I did I would’ve totally sued it wrong. Ugh. Thanks for sharing. I really need to make this a part of my training.
    And thanks for making me crave chocolate now too! ha! 🙂

  4. My roommate recently introduced me to your blog and our whole apartment is obsessed! However, I have been a bit jealous hearing about the training you have been doing for the marathon. I haven’t been able to run lately due to a leg injury. Everyone has been telling me to use a foam roller but I had no idea what to do with it. I was SO excited to see your most recent post. Thank you so much for all of your great ideas! You truly are an inspiration for our apartment 🙂

  5. I love that chocolate coconut water…it hits the spot when I have a chocolate craving. Your chicken salad looks delicious. I am making the same thing for a quick dinner tomorrow night.

  6. Super awesome tip about the foam roller, and so true. I use a baseball (yes ouch) on my back against the wall in this exact manner and it’s the only thing that helps manage my chronic pain.

  7. This advice on foam rolling will be so good for me – Thank you! I just signed up for my first race ever (an 8K), and in training, I’m learning about muscle soreness, tightness, and all that fun stuff.
    I will definitely get on this.

  8. Great info! Thank you for sharing!

    That chicken salad looks delicious! I haven’t had chicken salad in such a long time. I need to change that 🙂

  9. Thanks for the rolling info. Despite only running2 miles yesterday, the IT band was a little tight and I (inappropriately, apparently) rolled it this morning!

  10. That’s a good timing since I bought one on Saturday : I couldn’t walk properly 2 days after an intense legs workout and I wanted to do something about it! It did help! I actually love the versatility of this. I’m glad I finally bought it!

  11. Pingback: Off My Chest

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