Roll it out with foam roller

Kathy Hansen

Last week was a particularly busy week for me and — boy — my 50-something-year-old body can tell. Here is the re-cap:

— Monday: 18 holes of golf followed by a 40-minute run.

— Tuesday: Pitched seven innings of church ball.

— Wednesday: Sat for two hours at a high school academic awards ceremony.

— Thursday: Pitched seven innings of church ball.

— Friday: Sat for two hours at soccer banquet followed by a two-and-a-half-hour ride to Greensboro.

— Saturday: 5k Dirty Girl Mud Run.

— Sunday: 18 holes of golf.

And, oh, by the way, I spent eight-plus hours working for five of the days.

When I got up this past Monday morning, I was stiff, sore and tired. What’s a girl to do? The first thing I grabbed after the ibuprofen was my foam roller. Foam rollers have been around for nearly a decade. In the past they were mostly used by physical therapists to treat patients.

Foam rolling is a form of self myofascial release. Myofascial release, or MFR, is a means of massage that concentrates on muscle trigger points to relieve pain and increase range of motion.

Using a large cylindrical piece of hard foam — think a pool noodle on steroids — you can find those trigger points, lean into them and make them go away. I tend to get trigger points under my shoulder blades. This past week between pitching, crawling through mud and swinging my golf clubs, I could barely turn my head. By using my foam roller, I could find the hot spots and work them out. Foam rolling can be done on just about every muscle group in your body.

The key is to use your body weight to lean into the roller. Once you find the sore spot, stop and hold for a bit before rolling again. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel. Here are the major benefits of foam rolling:

— Increased circulation: By working out on a foam roller, you can increase circulation to your muscles which, in turn, will help them relax and recover after a workout.

— Increased range of motion: By getting into a routine of foam rolling, you can increase your flexibility. Rolling out your hamstrings, in particular, can help decrease lower back discomfort.

— Pain relief: Much of upper back and neck pain can be contributed to trigger point flair ups. Using a foam roller can save you a trip to the massage therapist and get you feeling better.

— Pre- and post-workout stretching: Foam rolling is a great substitute for traditional stretches both before and after a workout.

Foam rollers come in different sizes, styles and price ranges. A basic roller will cost you around $15. I suggest paying a little more to get one that comes with an instructional DVD. has a wide selection to choose from.

Foam rolling can be a great addition to your fitness routine. As always, check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.