Self-myofascial release, or self-massage, is the technical term to describe foam rolling. Triathletes benefit from foam rolling because it targets a specific point on your body that is suffering from muscle tightness or knots.
There are major benefits to using a foam roller and the good news is it isn’t time consuming and you can do it while watching TV!
Why Use a Foam Roller?
Nearly all triathletes have good reasons to partake in foam rolling. For one, stretching by itself isn’t always sufficient enough to release muscle tightness. Sometimes you need a little extra oomph. And if you have a knot in your muscles, just imagine tying a knot in an elastic band. You can stretch the band and the parts not tied will stretch. However, the knot stays a knot. Deep massage, such as foam rolling, helps to untie that knot.
Self-myofascial release also allows you to control how much pressure is needed on your trigger point. Since you’re the only one that can feel your own pain, this allows you to apply the foam roller’s pressure to exactly the right spot where your muscle tightness or knot is located.
Additionally, foam rolling helps to excite blood flow. This is why elite athletes and triathletes get massages regularly. Blood flow stimulation dramatically increases oxygen to your sore muscle fibers and, thus, reduces recovery time.
Overall, your muscles need elasticity to function properly. When they’re worked extensively, and have expended oxygen, muscles tighten up until stretched out again or oxygenated. Self-myofascial release through foam rolling expedites this process at a price significantly less than what sessions with a personal masseuse will cost. Rollers are also easily transportable and can be used on a wide variety of body parts, thus making them conveniently versatile.
How to Use your Foam Roller
To best use your foam roller, follow Jeff Kuhland's advice from breakingmuscle.com. First, identify the muscle or muscle group that has less mobility or is undergoing pain from tightness. Roll slowly across the muscle or group. According to Kuhland, no more than one inch per second.
When you hit a spot that’s especially painful or tight, pause here and try to relax. Give it time and the muscle should release—anywhere from 5-30 seconds. As Kuhland says, if an area is too painful to apply pressure, roll around it. And never roll a joint or bone. For more precise areas, try something like a lacrosse ball or tennis ball.
Great areas to pay attention to, and that often give triathletes the most grief, are the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, abductors, illiotibial (IT) band, and piriformis. If you’re rolling each muscle group for purely recovery, remember to roll across the entire band or muscle slow and steady, pausing on any area that’s especially tight.
TRIDOT TAKEAWAY: The foam roller is a great tool for triathletes because it allows one to target specific spots of interest by oneself, it’s versatile, it’s inexpensive, and it’s effective at releasing muscle tension and knots when stretching isn’t enough.
TALK WITH TRIDOT: Do you use a foam roller? Have you noticed a difference in recovery time or injury treatment or prevention?
JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels
Kuhland, Jeff. “What Is A Foam Roller, How Do I Use It, And Why Does It Hurt?” Breaking Muscle. Breaking Muscle, LLC. Web. Accessed 19 Feb 2017.