Friday, October 25, 2013

Sam, Sticks and Self-Myofascial Release

I'm coming to you tonight from the comfort of my couch with some of my favorite guys--Darling Husband, the Boston Red Sox, and Samuel Adams. He's a brewer. And a patriot.

Sam, my foam roller and the Sox

I had a most excellent workout today. I was on a massive high from it all afternoon, but now every part of me aches. In a good way, but still... I will say that Sam helps a lot with this sort of thing. So does foam rolling.

I mentioned foam rolling in my post on DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). I'm not going to lie--it hurts in the moment. I just finished a few minutes with the roller and it was painful, but wow... afterwards, it feels great. I'm now a big fan of foam rolling, but it took me a little time to get into it. Really, it gets a lot more comfortable the more you do it.

Foam rolling works on the principle of myofascial release--this involves putting pressure on the soft muscle tissue to alleviate pain, improve circulation and avoid injury. The most pleasant way to accomplish this is a massage, but that can be a little hard to come by, so the foam roller is a good way to get it done on your own. I typically roll after workouts, but I've read that rolling beforehand can be really beneficial and can significantly reduce DOMS, so FYI.

Wow, Jacoby Ellsbury just broke a bat! What fun to be so strong! Maybe I should try that. I'll work on it and let you know how it goes.

Anyway, there are a few different tools you can use for self-myofascial release (SMFR), the most obvious being... a foam roller. DH is a big fan of SMFR and also likes The Stick, which calls itself a 'toothbrush for your muscles'. He also rolls golf balls across the soles of his feet. Theoretically, you could even use a baseball bat, a bottle of Sam (preferably empty--I can help you with that) or a baseball! The possibilities are endless! A bat seems unnecessarily hard and painful. And they can break, apparently.

By the way, a serious advantage of The Stick is that it can be used as a Darth Maul light saber. I know that would be a key selling feature for many of you.

Foam rolling is really pretty straightforward--you slowly roll parts of your body across the roller. When you find a knot or a painful spot, spend a little more time there. Make sure to breathe. If I'm on a tender spot, I find I often hold my breath, but breathing through the roll is key.

I usually start on my calves, then move on to my hamstrings and IT band (the outer thigh.) Then I flip over and roll my quadriceps and hip flexors. This was all pretty remarkably unpleasant this evening, but I haven't rolled in a few days. Honestly, the more you do it, the less painful it becomes, so it's good to keep at it.

It gets really nice once you move to your back. I start with the lats and finish with my upper back, which is... ahhh... The whole thing only takes a few minutes and the rewards are great. Just be sure not to roll on your spine--you should be rolling on muscle, not bone.

Sometimes you have to push through painful things to see the benefits... like foam rolling... or game 2 of the World Series. But the Sox live on to play again tonight. I have Sam in the fridge and my roller at the ready. Game on, people.

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