When completing large amounts of exercise, there is a fine line between hard training and over-training. There are a number of different strategies an athlete can adopt in order to promote sufficient recovery, including correct nutrition and recovery fuel, adequate sleep, training/recovery day ratio and adopting training periodisation principles. One thing athletes often overlook is body maintenance concepts such as flexibility and massage. These two concepts are often neglected until it is too late, and the athlete is injured and/or having muscle fatigue issues.
Massage and flexibility should not be seen as a chore; rather as a training session in order to prepare the body for your next hard training session. As we all know massages can be relatively expensive especially if you undertake them once a week. Self-massage is a cost-effective way to save yourself some dollars and can be achieved through using a foam roller. Foam rollers are not quite as effective as a professional massage however if done often will go a long way in improving your flexibility and recovery post training. Here are my 4 reasons why all individuals undertaking exercise should use foam roller:
1. Improves flexibility
Flexibility is especially important for Time Trialing and Swimming in order to get in an optimal position and have sound technique. It will therefore improve your athletic performance and reduce likelihood of injury.
2. Flushes lactic acid and promotes muscle recovery
Lactic acid can pool in the muscles and leave you feeling lethargic and heavy in the legs the day after a hard session. Using a foam roller after your workout and on recovery days can help reduce soreness and tightness.
3. Time efficient and cost effective
Massages can range from $50-$100 for an hour and therefore could potentially cost you thousands of dollars every year. The foam roller is a once off purchase of around $30-$40 and will last you for years. Likewise, the foam roller can be used in the comfort of your own home and completed whilst watching TV or chatting with the family/friends. Small rollers can also be taken with you on trips away
4. Assists in Injury Prevention
After hard workouts your muscles become tense due to the stress they have been placed under. If unattended, knots can form in the muscles which can then lead to injury. Through using a foam roller, you can ‘iron out’ the tight spots which can prevent injury trigger points
Foam rollers are very versatile in that they can be used on any part of the body. Aim for 1 minute on each muscle group unless you find some sore sports where you may want to spend more time on to release. A session should last up to 20 mins and you should strive for 2-3 sessions per week
Larger Rollers (90cm) are recommended because they are easier to use and work more effectively. In saying this 30cm rollers can be very handy when travelling
(Originally written by Ryan Bourke, as TA VIC Head Swim Coach)