Surprise! That recovery section in the gym that's full of spiky tennis-sized balls, odd cylindrical contraptions, and dense pieces of foam that look like Lincoln logs is actually one of the most important parts — if not THE most important part — of the gym. Yes, we're talking about foam rolling and myofascial release and all the reasons you should be prioritizing it (or even making it your New Year's resolution).
Here's the thing: you need to be foam rolling more than you probably are right now. In fact, you should be foam rolling before and after your workout. Need more convincing? Here are all the ways it's going to change your life.
Rolling typically tight areas, like your IT bands and your knees, helps you get "unstuck," according to personal trainer and injury prevention expert Liz Letchford, MS, ATC. Have you ever felt like you couldn't get deep into a squat or a lunge because you were experiencing some tightness? Stretching isn't enough to get you ready — you have to break up the fascia!
Liz describes this as if you were wearing leather pants that stick to your skin — you'd have limited mobility. By "unsticking" the pants from your skin, you'd have more freedom to move. It's the same with your fascia. A little foam rolling and/or myofascia release with a trigger point therapy ball before you work out can make a world of difference in how you're able to move in your exercises — and with your daily movement, too!
Foam rolling is not only the best way to cool down after a workout, but it's also absolutely essential for proper, safe, and healthy recovery (and yes, a little bruising is normal). You'll help prevent adhesions while returning your muscles to their proper length. Plus, the massage is a great way to calm down your body after an intense sweat session.
"Foam rolling breaks up the adhesions to keep you injury free," said Erica Stenz, VP and trainer at Barry's Bootcamp in San Francisco. Adhesions are scar tissue — muscle tissue that gets stuck together. It limits mobility and can weaken the muscle, leading to injuries in your workouts or even in your day-to-day movements. By breaking up these adhesions, as Erica mentioned, you unstick the muscle tissue to get back to your normal mobility and strength.