Foam rolling has become popular and most are aware of the benefits, but when is the best time to get foam rolling?
There’s a lot of conflicting advice, and some people think it’s a good idea to do before a workout, whereas other say that after is a better option. Some say do it before bed to soothe sore muscles, some try it in morning when relaxed. This article aims to clear up some of the ideas behind the best time to foam roll.
What does foam rolling do, anyway?
Some people like to think that foam rolling soothes knots in the muscle like a rolling pin flattening dough, although that’s not the case. Muscle tension is a complex thing, and trying to force anything might damage them. Muscle tension is controlled by the central nervous system which makes decisions unconsciously. If you apply gentle pressure to the muscle, it sends a message to the central nervous system that you’re no longer using the muscle at peak performance and that it’s safe to relax. That’s why foam rolling should be a gentle activity rather than a battle with the muscle.
The majority of people will find most benefit from foam rolling before a workout. If your sport involves a lot of emphasis on movement, such as running or weightlifting, then this will be even more relevant and you’ll find that using a foam roller for just 10 minutes before a workout will help relax tense muscles. Not only that but it will help oxygenate your muscles as well, and the benefit of this is that it will help increase flexibility in tight muscles. In fact, foam rolling combined with stretching is one of the best ways to increase flexibility; this can be a long-term benefit as if tight muscles don’t get released, they can affect our posture and restrict movement. Foam rolling helps to reduce the chances of this.
There are benefits to foam rolling both before and after a workout, so if you’ve got an extra ten minutes or so that might be an option for you. It’s a common idea that you should let your muscles cool down post-workout, and there’s little better way to do this than foam rolling. The cool down after a workout is essentially where you’re allowing your body to return to the physiological state that it was in before the workout. This means that your body is no longer on alert, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will reduce the feeling of muscle soreness that you might experience after a workout. This results from micro-tears in the muscle and waste product accumulation within the muscle cells. After an intense workout, your body may have difficulty flushing waste products efficiently, and this is where foam rolling can help. Foam roller compression helps to massage the cells, allowing oxygen into the muscle and encouraging the cells to remove the waste.
Is it a good idea to foam roll before bed?
We’ve covered how it would be beneficial to foam roll before a workout although there are also benefits to be gained from foam-rolling before bed. Your muscles are often in a relaxed state before sleep, and have probably had time to calm down from any workout you might have done during the day. Therefore, foam rolling before bed offers an opportunity to really help you relax.
Is it a good idea to foam roll on a rest day?
As you can see, relaxation is a key theme for foam rolling and often we achieve a peak of relaxation on rest days. It might be an idea to pick a time when you’re warm or relaxed, such as after a bath or shower.
Foam rolling shouldn’t be a stressful activity, and it’s safe to do it regularly to help your muscles recuperate and recover elasticity. If you’re feeling keen, you could even do gentle foam rolling 2-3 times a day for maximum effect.