Niagara Gazette

November 4, 2012

FIT FOR LIFE: $20 can get you a lifetime of feeling better

Christopher Tybor
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — These days, $20 doesn’t get you much. That’s less than 5 gallons of gas or four ridiculously expensive triple grand lattes. Or you can take the following advice and spend that Andrew Jackson on a piece of equipment that goes a long way toward a lifetime of feeling better.

I am talking about buying a foam roller that will provide “Self Myofascial Release” or SMR. This is a poor man’s version of going to a specialist who does ART (Active Release Therapy). I understand not everyone has the time or finances to get weekly adjustments/sessions so for everyday bumps/bruises/tightness. Luckily, SMR will be sufficient in treating and/or preventing most issues.

Before I continue, a word of caution. Those with circulatory problems and chronic pain diseases (e.g. fibromyalgia) should not use foam rollers.

Basically, SMR is the act of applying pressure to a ‘sore/tight/lumpy muscle in an attempt to cause the affected area to ‘release” thus restoring muscle tissue quality. You will break up any adhesions and scar tissue, helping to alleviate tight muscles andkeep them from getting lumpier than my mom’s mashed potatoes.

Releasing tension and restoring muscle tissue quality will also help restore or correct postural imbalances caused by tight muscles. Foam rolling doesn’t yield marked improvements overnight; you’ll need to be diligent and stick with it . You can expect some noticeable benefits within 4-6 “sessions”.

Wondering how can you convert your $20 into this wonderful investment? Just go to Target, Wal-Mart or Stuart Sports and grab a foam roller, golf ball and a lacrosse ball.

A 2 to 3 foot foam roller will be plenty. If you really want to cut corners, buy a 3-foot foam roller and cut it in half — split the cost with your friend or gym partner.

You can foam roll most muscle groups, but we have found the most common affected areas are: hamstrings, Iliotibial Band (IT band), Gluteus Maximus (booty),   Latissimus Dorsi/back, calves and the feet.

I would suggest spending 60-90 seconds per muscle group and maybe more depending on tightness and pain threshold.

• Hamstrings: You’ll want to try these with the feet turned in, out, and pointing straight ahead to completely work the entire hamstring muscle group. Balance on your hands with your hamstrings (muscles from your butt to the back of your knee) resting on the roller, then roll from the base of the glutes/butt to the knee. To increase pressure you can stack one leg on top of the other.

• Iliotibial Band: In the starting position, you’ll be lying on your side with the roller positioned just below your pelvis. From here, you’ll want to roll all the way down the lateral/side aspect of your thigh until you reach the knee. Roll from just above the knee up and down. Stack the opposite leg on top to increase loading.

Warning: This will be the most painful of all areas for most people. Those most affected will be those who run/cycle often. As muscle tissue quality increases from your diligent foam rolling, the discomfort during rolling will decrease and you will be a better, healthier athlete/gym goer.

• Gluteus Maximus: : Set up like you are going to roll your hamstrings, but sit on the roller instead. Roll your money maker. Enough said. If you are brave, substitute the foam roller for the lacrosse ball.

• Latismus Dorsi: Lie on your side with the same side arm overhead. The roller should be positioned at your armpit.

You will want to roll toward the armpit and back down.

• Feet: Use the golf ball to roll your feet. Do these from a seated position. Roll forward, side to side, backwards etc. Don’t feel anything? Take off shoes and repeat.

Christopher Tybor is a personal trainer and owner of ChrisFit Personal Training in Niagara Falls. For more information call 818-0078 or visit