By Sarah Bonner
Foam rollers have been increasing in popularity over the past few years, and they are popular for a reason! Foam rollers allow you to perform self-myofascial release (SMR) which is soft tissue therapy similar to what a massage provides, minus the high cost. SMR helps release tight muscles, knots, speed up muscle recovery, and, over a longer period of time, can increase range of motion. Foam rollers also help with core strength and stability since you are required to balance and hold yourself up as you roll your body over the foam tube. While you can use a foam roller for relief on its own, they also make a great addition to a warm-up routine before training.
Most people have a love-hate relationship with their roller because, while they offer relief like a deep tissue massage, it can hurt. When you begin a foam rolling routine, you might be shocked how sensitive you are to the technique. However, as your muscles relax and as you continue to use a roller over time, you become less sensitive and more accustomed to any discomfort. Any discomfort is greatly outweighed by the relief a foam roller can offer. It may just become your favourite training tool.
When buying a foam roller, you should consider which density is right for you, the cost, and the size.
Density is the most important factor. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the density the more intense the massage will be. Density ranges from soft and squishy to hard and firm. While softer rollers are a good place to start, really soft rollers have a shorter life span because they break down after prolonged use. Firmer rollers, including the hollow covered hard plastic types, offer more intense SRM so, although they last longer, you might have to work your way up to using one. Most people opt for the middle option, a high density foam version made of closed-cell EVA or EPP.
The cost of foam rollers range anywhere from $15 to $80 CDN. Density typically corresponds with cost: the softer a roller, the cheaper it is. However, the more expensive rollers with extra features, such as ridges and nobbles, aren’t necessarily more effective than traditional foam rollers. If you’re looking to target a small specific spot, a tennis ball makes a good and affordable companion to your roller. If you can afford it, choose your roller based on your needed level of density.
Size is another component to consider when purchasing a foam roller. Most rollers are around 6 inches in diameter but the length varies. The longer rollers are great for home use but if you are going to be travelling with your roller, to the gym or on a trip, look for smaller more portable ones.
Foam rollers are available at general sporting goods and fitness retailers as well as online. Tune-in next month when Sarah explains how to use foam rollers.
Sarah Bonner the author of a new e-article, The Clean Girl’s Guide to Cycling: How to Clean Everything from Bar Tape to Sports Bras, has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com
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