Self Myofascial Release Techniques
By Coach Travis Grosjean, NASM certified Personal Trainer
What is foam rolling and how does it work?
Foam Rolling, the art of rolling your body along a large cylindrical foam, is a technique used to relax and restore muscles, increase circulation and improve range of motion and stability, which can result in more muscle, greater strength, improved athletic performance and decreased muscle soreness.
Foam rolling, or self-myofacial release, works like a deep sports massage, softening and lengthening the fascia and breaking down adhesions. The technique uses gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissues while applying traction to the fascia, the soft connective tissue just under the skin that wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels. For various reasons including disuse, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together creating an adhesion. Your body will feel the limitations caused by the adhesion, in restricted muscle movement, pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion.
Some of my clients grumble at the foam roll because it can be uncomfortable, and at introduction may make your muscles feel tender and bruised. But, the rewards are well worth the few moments of discomfort. Your body will feel alive with increased circulation, your muscles will feel looser, longer and leaner as your flexibility increases, your performance will no doubt improve and that soreness after a workout will efficiently diminish.
This powerful, little, roll costs less than one good massage, typically under $40 bucks. Easily one of the most affordable pieces of essential gym equipment. And it is portable enough to tuck away in a closet or under a bed.
Who can benefit from foam rolling?
Who needs foam rolling? Everyone can positively benefit from foam rolling (if you have any heart/vascular illness or a chronic pain condition check with your doctor first.) As we age, flexibility, stability and mobility, are increasingly important. The foam roll maintains all of that.
Longer drive, more aces, better PR, stronger workouts. As an athlete, no matter the sport, foam rolling will improve your performance, aid in recovery and prevent injury. The increased flexibility allows your muscle to obtain their full range of motion which translates into greater power, faster reaction, and increased accuracy. Plus, you’ll find that your body can safely train longer and harder; and, with the lack of severe soreness your mind will be up for the next days workout.
Foam rolling is impressive for rehabilitation, correction, prevention and management of chronic problems. I have clients, who had Plantar Fasciitis, Sciatica and Bursitis, some even doctors and nurses themselves. I got them foam rolling and safely, quickly (in some instances more than 2 times faster than expected) the pain was eliminated and range of motion returned, improving their workouts and life. Most misalignment in the neck, back, hips, knees, and ankles, caused by muscle tightness can be corrected through foam rolling. Just as it corrects problems, it prevents them. By foam rolling and releasing fascia, you will have less opportunity for chronic pain and soreness, torn muscles and connective tissue. For instance, many runners end up with knee and foot problems, sometimes so unbearable the passion is retired. Most often the problems are caused by tight muscles. Foam rolling the legs releases that tightness and the sport continues.
How do I use the foam roll?
To learn how to use the foam roll and powerful exercises that will improve your health, contact Coach Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you are a beginner or advanced runner, what Cliff Temple calls the "Golden Rules of the Track" in the New York Road Runner's Complete Book of Running and Fitness (an outstanding book, by the way), are a great introduction and reminder to proper track etiquette.
As a runner and a trainer, I think that the integration of track training is essential to understanding and improving your performance. The track offers controlled conditions, with exact distances so a runner can establish a baseline and set benchmarks of improvement as training progresses. And, the track is the best environment for interval training,
We all start somewhere, and it's important to remember that. Many newbies to the track don't know the following bits of etiquette and can be intimidated to share the track with others that they perceive to be more experienced. The simple structure of the rules and being in the "know" builds confidence. And for those of us who are seasoned, this reminds us of our manners.
Rules to Live By When Running on a Track
Like I mentioned, these originated from Cliff Temple, but I've added a few of my own.
Have a great workout!
To learn specific track exercises and drills and learn how to integrate them into your unique workout, contact Coach Travis at email@example.com.
By: Coach Travis
You've probably seen them and done a double take, five toe shoes, like those made by Vibram (vee-bram), www.vibramfivefingers.com, are popping up everywhere. We talked with Vibram, the creator of these shoes, at the IDEA conference to learn a bit about their shoe, and why they're so great.
Vibram has been around and producing innovative performance products for more than 75 years; the founder, Vitale Bramani, developed the first rubber soled shoe. The FiveFinger shoe, introduced in 2006, takes rubber soles to a whole new level, an innovation allowing the foot to work and move as it naturally should.
Why should I try a 5 toe shoe? Here's what Vibram says:
1) They strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs- training barefoot or wearing FiveFingers will stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving general foot health and reducing the risk of injury.
2) Improved range of motion in ankles, feet and toes. No longer 'cast' in a shoe, the foot and toes move more naturally.
3) Stimulates neural function important to balance and agility. When barefoot and wearing FiveFingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain, improving balance and agility.
4) Eliminates heel lift to align the spine and improve posture. By lowering the heel, your bodyweight becomes evenly distributed across the footbed, promoting proper posture and spinal alignment.
5) Allows the foot and body to move naturally. Which just feels good.
What uses are they good for? Everything. Hands down. Sprinting, mud running, water sports, climbing, yoga, sailing, you name it, you can wear them. Vibram has different styles for different uses. I can already tell that these would be great for triathloning, particularly Eppie's for the Run/Kayak legs.
How do I get properly sized for the shoe? They are not your conventional American shoe sizes. If you want to order them online, first find out your size, then shop. Vibram has a fit guide online. We asked how to fit wide feet, and Vibram suggested any of their laced products, like the Bikila LS.
How do they wear? How long should they last? Vibram soles have been around for over 75 years; they're on Louis Vuiotton shoes and almost every high end shoe out there. They wear like any other shoe and should last just as long as your sneaker.
How breathable are they? These shoes are like any other as far as breathability. A far larger benefit is that these shoes are completely machine washable. When they get dirty, just throw them in the wash and they are good as new. You can also buy five toe socks made by Injinji to wear with your Vibram's.
How should you transition to this type of footwear? Your body is highly adaptable and will learn to function in the shoe quickly, but the movement in the shoe is different than you may be accustomed to, and can cause muscle soreness at first. Your feet and calves are going to feel it. When asked how I, as a sprinter, should transition in the shoe, the Vibram rep said that at first, I should only do 1/10th of my workout in the shoe the first week, then work my way to the full workout and then, full time use. Vibram's brochures say, don't get discouraged, but it may take as long as one year to comfortably make a clean break from traditional sneakers to full time FiveFingers. Sole Training (www.willpowerfit.com), a training program designed to strengthen your feet and prepare them for FiveFingers, is available online. Vibram publishes great tips on transitions, (see these tips for the running) getting you familiar with and prepared for your new shoes.
What body adjustments can I expect? Your foot strike and stride will instinctively adjust to different surfaces. FiveFingers’ runners typically land on the ball of the foot towards the lateral side, then after the foot lands, the heel should land gradually. You'll feel more connected to your environment and your balance will improve. A lot of people say that they feel "free" and are ready to explore!
How much do they cost? FiveFingers run about $100. But, there are other toe shoes out there that you can find. You can shop at Vibram or find a retailer, like REI, that carries them.
Are you a marathoner and travel by plane to races? If so, you may want to catch up on some research by Beth Parker Ph.D. and colleagues. You may be at risk. A study comparing plane and car transported Boston Marathoners found that plane travelers had high levels of blood clotting agents. Making those that travel by air a high risk for blood clotting; the study also indicated that older adults may have an increased risk. To cut your risk, Dr. Parker suggests wearing compression socks during your flight.
For Further Reading:
Parker B, Augeri A, Capizzi J, d'Hemecourt P, Kriz P, Troyanos C and Thompson P. Effect of Air Travel on Exercise-Induced Coagulatory and Fibrinolytic Activation in Marathon Runners. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, in press.
Additional research is currently being conducted to determine the implications of the findings and the effectiveness of interventions (i.e. compression socks.)
Yeah! You are making the switch and are so excited that you are ready to go! But, before you take one barefoot step, read this! Transitioning to barefoot or minimal footwear for running, other workouts or everyday wear should be performed progressively and with awareness. Tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones and skin all must adapt. Building up strength slowly will prevent undue stress and injury.
Your body is highly adaptable and will learn to function quickly, but the movement, either barefoot or minimally shod, is different than you may be accustomed to, and can cause muscle soreness at first. When barefoot or in minimal footwear, it is most common to adjust your gait from a heel strike to a forefoot/midfoot strike. (Lieberman) Forefoot striking requires you to use muscles in your toes, midfoot, heel, ankles and calves that are most likely pretty weak. Podiatrist, Dr. Michael Nirenberg explains in a recent article for the Canadian Medical Association Journal “There are four layers of muscle in our feet. The majority of the muscles are used less, if at all, when the feet are in supportive footwear…once you support the arch of the foot, you don’t use your foot muscles as much.” (Collier, 2011) The typical modern shoe is like wearing a cast for too long, the confined muscles atrophy. Dr. Nirenberg further states “If you start doing barefoot activity…you start to build up the muscles in your feet.” (Collier, 2011) As a result of the new movement, your feet and calves are going to temporarily feel it as strength is built; they may feel tired, stiff and sore. Additionally, the Achilles tendon may stiffen. That’s why it is imperative to your health to take a progressive approach, acutely listen to your body, maintain proper form, and not push further than your body can handle.
To begin, test out your shoes wearing them to do things that you normally do in regular shoes. Wear them to the grocery store, around the house, get a feel for them and rediscover what feels natural. Your toes grip the floor a bit differently, and you will feel quite a bit more of the ground environment. You may experience spring in your step and a bit of exhilaration.
Once you are ready, try 10% of your regular workout in them for one week. Then, progress increasing by 10% each week until full time use is achieved. Vibram’s brochures say, don’t get discouraged, but it may take as long as one year to comfortably make a clean break from traditional sneakers to full time FiveFingers.
Dan Lieberman and team, reiterate in the Biomechanics of Foot Strike, “Be patient and build gradually. Stop and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore, tired muscles are normal, but bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a signal of injury. Stop if your arches are hurting, if the top of your foot is hurting, or if anything else hurts!”
When transitioning, you don’t necessarily have to reduce your workout, just reduce the time you are barefoot or in minimal footwear. Carry a pair of sneakers along for part of your workout. You may also want to integrate forefoot/midfoot striking into your normal workout progressively. Start off your workout with a forefoot/midfoot strike and transition to your normal strike.
Become and stay very aware of your environment, the terrain and what is in front and under foot. Let your feet and legs feel the subtle changes in impact and ground so you can adjust your body. And, of course, when running barefoot particularly, be careful of things that can lead to a stubbed toe or puncture your soles, like nails, glass, fish hooks, needles.
Finally, prevent injury and soreness by stretching and foam rolling your feet, calves and hamstrings regularly; preferably after each workout/use.
To learn specific feet strengthening, foam rolling and stretching exercises that are best for your body and ability, and learn how to integrate them into your unique workout, contact Coach Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org