Monday, December 31, 2012

Foam Roller...torture device or recovery asset?

A little bit of both.  I've finally started taking the foam roller and recovery seriously.  I have all this time to work with, so there is no reason that I shouldn't take advantage of it and make sure I am recovered as much as possible.  I think how good I felt last week was testament to adding 30-60 min of foam rolling and stretching each day.

How I finally realised how good the torture of foam rolling could be...and why I should jam this spiky ball in my chest...

I love a good deep tissue massage, the kind that is a bit brutal during but you feel like you can move, and everything is aligned afterwards.  I've always had a high pain tolerance, and its usually entertaining my first few times with a massage therapist.  A back and forth of, does this hurt? No. Are you sure? Yup. How about now? Nope. Really??

Finding a good therapist that knows where to push, and doesn't cause discomfort for the sake of going deep, but applies it sparingly in specific places to make your muscles submit and loosen is tough, and there are usually a few bruises involved in the search.

I got lucky and only had to try out a few before I found a good sports therapist who really focussed on muscle balance, knew where to trigger my muscles to get them to release down the kinetic chain, and had some interesting techniques that sometimes involve a bit of yoga in the massage.  The biggest asset though has been his enthusiasm for foam rolling.

He holds a foam rolling class, and I was hesitant to go.  I had used a foam roller on and off just sitting on the hot spots and trying to relax enough for them to release.  I love it when someone digs in a deep tissue massage, but I'm kind of a wuss when I have to cause that same sensation myself. Well I went and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of foam rolling.  I thought foam rolling was a fairly static exercise, with some rolling back and forth to find hot spots.  What I learned during this class was that movement through flexing and rotating would help get deep into the working muscles.  For example IT band I would be in a side plank position and slowly move down the leg, what he suggested is the same position, but bending the leg at the knee slowly and releasing helped me get deeper.  Or in the chest use a spiky ball and moving my arm slowly up and back to get more into the swimming muscles.

I finally started taking the foam roller and recovery seriously. The difference was staggering in how I felt each day and how my body has been absorbing work.  Here's the crazy part, for the first time I went to see my massage therapist, and 20 min into the session he asked if I wanted to do some work on my upper body.  Now this doesn't seem crazy, but usually we run out of time because my hips, glutes and IT need some serious attention!

He said that everything just released easily this time, and he was having a hard time finding hot spots, when this guy can zero in on the slightest discrepancies in my body.  So he started on my upper body...and was once again surprised.  It was in rough shape.  I have terrible posture, something I have been working on lately, and this has caused even more tightness and soreness in my upper back.  I wish I listened to my mom when she told me to sit up straight because it is damned hard to change my posture now.  My husband teases me, when I'm at the gym as soon as I'm doing any weightlifting he says I just lock into great posture, as soon as I'm done the move my shoulders collapse in.  I didnt realise it was such a visible difference!  So some quality deep tissue work was done, as well as a bit of a lecture on how a spiky ball can be added to my foam roller torture routine.  Yea this looks like something I want to jam into my chest and back...

I have to say though, I had a shockingly good swim the day after my back and chest massage.  My threshold pace that I usually have to work for to hold it for 100m, I did 3*300 at faster than threshold pace and it felt effortless in comparison to how I usually would have to work for it.  I was almost surprised to see the wall of the pool each time because it came so quickly.  So I suppose I will start working with the spiky ball, because today after the effects of the massage wore off I was back to working hard for T pace for 100m.  

Time to hit the bike for a bit, then get dressed up to go Pub hopping for New Years Eve.  Happy New Years Eve!!  

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