Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Cindy Kuzma
Prep your muscles to perform their best by incorporating this tool into your workout.
Chances are, your foam roller doesn’t see any action until after your run. Although foam rollers are often used to ease postexercise tightness, research suggests that rolling out before you hit the road has perks, too. In a new study, athletes said the squats, jumps, and shuttle runs they did after 10 minutes of foam rolling felt easier than doing the identical workout unrolled. What’s that back-and-forth doing for you? Everything a good warmup should: loosening up your muscles, elevating your breathing and heart rate, and psychologically preparing you to sweat, says study author Disa Hatfield, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island. But that’s not all. Self-massage may stimulate the release of neurotransmitters that boost relaxation, or tinker with your body’s chemistry in a way that blocks feelings of fatigue, Hatfield says. Prerun rolling also may relieve excess tension wrought by your previous miles, says Chris McGrath, M.S., a strength and conditioning coach and assistant professor at Long Island University. “Sometimes muscles carry tension,” he says, “and when you break that tension, they can function better.”
A foam roller can lose its effectiveness over time, says strength and conditioning coach Chris McGrath, M.S. The life span varies by roller type–spongy white rollers wear out more quickly than denser, dark-colored models or those with a PVC center. Moreover, some products may last weeks in a busy gym but a year used only occasionally by one person. A quick visual inspection will clue you in on a roller’s condition, McGrath says. If an all-foam roller looks like an apple core after you’ve taken a few bites, or if the circumference of the center of the roller is significantly reduced, or the foam covering on a PVC-type roller has worn off, it’s probably time to invest in a new one.