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Health & Fitness: Roll Away Pain

By Kim Duke NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

If you are new to strength training, running, kayaking or anything that pushes your body to perform numerous unfamiliar repetitions, your body will respond with sore and achy muscles. One of the best ways I have found to relieve those sore muscles is through foam rolling.

Foam rolling is an awesome stand-in for a massage. New research supports what trainers and physical therapists have claimed for years: Done just before exercise, the simple technique can reduce muscle fatigue and soreness dramatically enough that the workout feels easier. And, rolling as a part of your cool down has been shown to cut down on post exercise discomfort. It eases aches by improving blood flow and restoring muscular and joint function.

The one hitch is that many folks press too hard on the roller, which can be painful. To get the benefits without the “ouch” factor, aim for a consistent, light pressure.

Often, my clients come in with sore muscles and have specific trigger points that require extra attention. Releasing trigger points helps to reestablish proper movement patterns and pain-free movement, and ultimately, to enhance performance. Utilizing stretching alone is not always enough to release muscles tightness, which is why foam rollers have thrived on the mass market.

Imagine a bungee cord with a knot tied into it and then envision stretching the cord. This creates tension, stretching the unknotted portion of the muscle and the attachment points. The knot, however, has remained unaltered. Foam rolling can assist in breaking up these muscle knots, resuming normal blood flow and function. The goal to any corrective or recovery technique is to get you back to the point of normal functioning, as if nothing was ever wrong.

To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second.

When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible. You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen. If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area, and gradually work to loosen the entire area. The goal is to restore healthy muscles — it is not a pain tolerance test. You may also use other objects to work on muscles, such as a tennis ball.

You may be sore the next day. It should feel as if your muscles have been worked/released, but you should not push yourself to the point of excessive soreness. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep and eat clean. This will help flush your system and fuel your muscles more effectively. Give it 24-48 hours before focusing on the same area again.

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