When it comes to how you feel post-run, do you feel okay? No real aches or pains, or at least none that are limiting your running? A question I see commonly asked is, “if I’m feeling good, why should I use a foam roller?” The benefits of foam rolling have to do with the mobility of the fascia, and here’s why that’s important.
The Benefits of Foam Rolling; Even for Healthy Runners
The benefits of foam rolling deal with the mobility of the fascia. Fascia is a fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of the muscles in our body. Without the proper mobility, fibers of the fascia become cross-linked, and they end up binding to muscles and nerves; limiting normal motion and causing pain. Many runners will do some static stretching to try to keep their muscles healthy, but is it enough?
Recent studies have shown that stretching may be more beneficial if foam rolling is done beforehand. These studies have shown an increase in the hip’s range of motion after rolling on the hamstring then compared to stretching alone. The increase in flexibility is thought to be the increased blood flow and an increase in intramuscular temperature, both of which improve the viscoelastic properties of muscles.
As more research has been done over the years, the once mandatory static stretching before exercise has been proven not to be beneficial and could put you at a higher risk of injury. Instead, it should only be done after exercise when your muscles are relaxing and returning to their regular length. Plus with recent studies, it’s possible that static stretching might be even more beneficial post exercise and after a form a Self Myofascial Release such as foam rolling.
Daily Health of Fascia
Something most no nothing about, but it’s important to understand. Fascia is constantly being created and laid down throughout our body. Without proper movement, the fibers will not form in the correct pattern, creating pain and inhibiting movement. The stress we put on our body every day can affect how fascia is laid down. Stress can range from running, carrying a heavy work bag, sitting at a computer, or any other activity we perform regularly. Self Myofascial Release will help release “knots,” allowing greater tissue extensibility, normal function, and normal motion.
Post Injury Tissue Mobility
The entire concept of tissue mobility is of even greater importance post-injury because new layers of fascia are laid down as scar tissue. If this tissue isn’t broken up, mobilized, and properly aligned, it can cause problems in the future. Even if you had an injury a while ago – months to years; it can still creep up on you and cause problems.
Scar tissue from past injuries will inhibit normal tissue mobility and function. You might be able to continue running because the body will compensate. However, there are underlying issues of tissue mobility that might affect you further on down the line in your training. If you’re running – or doing any exercise for that matter – on a regular basis; it’s important to keep muscles and fascia healthy.
It might help prevent some injuries that pop-up during training when you thought you were fine. I’m referring to all of those typical nagging injuries that we runners just accept as a regular part of our sport; hamstring tightness, achy Achilles tendon, runner’s knees, just to name a few. All of those things could be traced back to poor tissue mobility.
Performance Capability of Flexible Tissue
Another benefit of regular Self Myofascial Release is the performance capability of your muscles. The more flexible your muscles are, the more power they’ll be able to produce. This has to do with elastic energy. The more stretch a muscle gets; the more stored energy it has and the more force it will be able to generate.
Which means a less flexible muscle produces less stretch, less range of motion, less stored energy, and decreased force output. Self Myofascial Release combined with proper stretching, strengthening, and training could help you reach new performance levels that you weren’t able to achieve before. Self Myofascial Release has become an important part of training plans for many collegiate and professional level athletes across all sports because of the performance benefits.
What’re Your Thoughts?
Ally Gonzales is the founder & editor-in-chief of RunningSoleGirl. Along with blogging she is also juggling attending college and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science with a Sports Management minor.