Ever wondered what those large white foamy cylinders are around the Healthworks stretching area? I have wondered that quite a bit since I joined the club. I see women using them after workouts as a self-massage but I’ve never been foam_rollersure how to use them myself. In fact, the first and only time I ever encountered one was at a volleyball game when a teammate of mine was on the floor with her head on it, raving about how comfortable she was just laying there.

My ignorance continued until recently when I joined Erica C., a trainer at Cambridge Healthworks, for a workshop to learn how to properly and effectively use these gadgets.

Of the 11 women at the workshop, about half of them had never used the foam rollers before. For those women who had used them, most were still unsure of what exercises they could use for specific muscle groups. Enter Erica C. to the rescue.

Here’s a quick recap of what Erica had to say about foam rollers…

Often used for rehab or prevention of injury, foam rollers activate Golgi Tendon Organs that are sensory proteins within muscle fibers. As you use your body weight to control the roller, your muscles sense the pressure and start to relax.

By using the foam rollers, you can reduce muscle tightness or soreness. You will also alleviate stress, increase your range of motion and improve your posture if used properly.

Before using the rollers, you should remember to have warm muscles, whether you are doing the stretches before or after a work out. Also, you will want to make sure to only massage soft muscle tissues (avoid bones and joints!). In the beginning you should only use the roller for 10-15 minutes and you should not use the rollers on a specific muscle for more than 20-30 seconds. As with exercise, you should give yourself days of rest in between uses and be sure to hydrate after each massage. (source: ptonthenet.com)

The number of exercises is endless but all of them can help relieve muscle groups that become sore during a workout. My favorite was one where you lay with your back on the foam roller with your knees bent as if you were doing sit-ups. With your hands behind your head and your elbows bent out away from your body, you roll the foam up and down your back by bending and straightening your knees. This specific exercise targeted the upper back. After this particular exercise, you can do a cat stretch with your arms extending from the roller and arching your back to stretch out the upper back muscles.

Other stretches massaged the glutes, the IT band, hamstrings and hip flexors. To see the exercises, check out this PDF from Performbetter.com. You can also ask your Healthworks trainer to give you a demonstration.

Photo: http://www.bostonrunningcenter.com/foamroller.cfm


Did you know Healthworks offers complimentary workshops each month? Do you have a favorite workshop I should try? Check out the events page in MindBodyOnline for a full schedule!