According to my blog stats, the subjects that lead the most people to this blog are “IT band” and “foam rolling” because of this post. Far be it from me to keep people from what they want so here is a little more information on those subjects.
In that prior post I go into much more detail about what foam rolling, aka self-myofascial release, does and why you should do it. In brief, when your muscles are tight, they, and your tendons, pull on your body parts where they are attached. The result can be pain and malalignment (aka poor posture or “upper cross” and “lower cross syndrome”). For me, and many others, this kind of tightness in the legs can result in IT Band Syndrome – knee pain that can make running or other activities like hiking really uncomfortable.
More info regarding IT Band Syndrome: In addition to foam rolling, stretching is also a good way to prevent and/or alleviate symptoms. The best stretch I’ve found is what I’ll call the cross-legged toe touch. I actually learned it from a belly dance instructor.
- Stand up.
- Cross one foot over the other with your feet right next to each other.
- Try to touch your toes.
- Twist toward your back foot.
- Soften your knees and come up slowly (to avoid a head rush), switch sides.
More info regarding Foam Rolling: What I didn’t tell you previously is that you can often get the same massaging experience from other pieces of equipment, not just foam rollers.
- Tennis balls (or softballs) are perfect for this sort of thing. I have one on my night stand and another by my couch. I’ll place it under my legs/glutes while I’m sitting watching TV or under my back while I’m lying in bed reading. As those areas loosen I’ll move the ball around to a new spot. You can also use it standing up against a wall. Roll your back, neck, arms or even your chest muscles. If you can reach it, you can roll it. Just stay away from your abs since you’ve got a lot of soft tissue and organs in there. And don’t forget the bottoms of your feet. They are like the tires on your car. If they aren’t working well, it doesn’t matter how well the rest of your body is working.
- Rolling-pin – You can find fancy “sports massagers” like the one below from Perform Better for about $25 or you can shop in your kitchen. I don’t do a lot of baking so my rolling-pin is fair game when it comes to being a massage tool. This type of tool is great for calves and thighs because you can use your own strength to roll your muscles. I have a hard time getting enough pressure on my calves when I use a foam roller so this is a good alternative.
- Whatever else you can press your muscles on – Throughout the day at the gym you can find me leaning on various pieces of equipment trying to get a knot out. It’s probably not the most attractive thing you’ll find me doing but neither is hobbling around in pain. At home, the edges of counters work, if they are round enough, as do the arms of pieces of furniture. If you’re having trouble accessing a particularly troublesome spot, experiment. Just make sure no one has a camera.