Ask any fitness expert, and they only have good things to say about the foam roller. Leah Simmons is no different. In fact, it is a pivotal part of her daily workout routine. Not sure what to do with it but know you should be using it? Read on as Leah shares her favourite moves and how you too can benefit from having a foam roller in your life.
Can you tell us how your relationship with the foam roller began? We understand it was a bit of a love/hate one at first…
It was more “hate” than “love” at first that’s for sure! I was introduced to the foam roller during my Pilates teacher training course and was intrigued at how something so innocent looking could inflict so much pain! It was amazing to me that a little bit of body weight applied to a particular area whilst using the roller could hurt so much! It led me to ask “why”? I then embarked down a fascinating path of really understanding what was going on underneath the skin when we move our bodies and the importance of fascial release.
How often (and how) do you currently use it? Is it just for post-exercise recovery like many of us may think?
It’s great for post-exercise recovery. I use it after every workout. I also use it in the mornings sometimes after a particularly heavy strength day the day before. I’ll use it to just lie on sometimes and stare at the sky for a divine chest/spine stretch. It is on-hand wherever I go. I also have a shorter version that I take with me when I travel. It’s my constant companion! A lot of us mistake tightness in the muscles as actually tightness in the fascia (the connective tissue that covers the muscles) so it’s amazing at alleviating that. I just love the feeling of literally “rolling out the tension.”
What benefits have you personally seen from using a foam roller and for anyone that doesn’t use it, what exactly are they missing out on?
The benefits are many and varied depending on where you use it. For example, if you use it up and down your ITB (Ilio-Tibial Band – the lateral side of your thigh) it can relieve lower back pain, knee pain… all sorts of referred pain that stems from having tight hamstrings. If you tip slightly forward and roll along your TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) that can help with tight hip flexors. Like anything, the benefits can be incredible if you are consistent with it.
The foam roller can sometimes hurt. From experience, what can you say about this?
All I can say is no pain, no gain! Yes it’s true that it can be uncomfortable at first but again, if you are consistent, the pain soon turns to pleasure and it really starts to feel amazing!
Here are 3 of Leah’s favourite movements using the foam roller:
1. BACK MASSAGE (LUMBAR/THORACIC/CERVICAL)
Start sitting up, knees bent to 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor with hands interlaced behind your head. Place the roller behind you in the small of your back. Slowly start to lean backwards and shift your weight onto the roller so your bottom lifts off the floor. Gently start to roll up and down your back. Make sure you relax and allow your entire body weight to fall fully onto the roller. Go as far up towards your neck and down to your lower back as you feel comfortable. Watch out for long hair though! You do not want to get it caught under the roller! Roll as far up your back as feels comfortable – you can pause at your shoulders and do a separate little massage in that area while you are up there!
2. ITB MASSAGE (ILIO-TIBIAL BAND)
Lying on your side, place the roller horizontally at the top of your thigh just under your hip bone. Extend both legs so they are squeezing together and off the floor. Reach your arms as far away from your as you can basically drag yourself down the roller until it is at the top of your knee. DO NOT ROLL OVER YOUR KNEE. Then roll back up! If the pain is too much then you can place your top foot on the floor in front of you and use that as a bit of leverage. Repeat 5 times each side.
3. CALF MASSAGE (GASTROCNEMIUS/SOLEUS)
Sit upright with your hands flat on the floor beside you. Cross one leg over the other and place the roller at the top of the calf muscle, just under the back of the knee. Lift yourself up off the floor and shift your weight onto your calf. Start to roll yourself as slowly as you can down the belly of the muscle until you reach your ankle. Then roll back up just as slowly. Repeat twice more, then move onto the inner calf and finally the outer calf.