It doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic athlete, bodybuilder or casual gym goer—if you’re challenging your muscles, you’re going to experience soreness.
What is soreness exactly?
Our friends at TriggerPoint offered the following explanation, “Exercise is stress and stress breaks down muscles. The soreness that you may feel, commonly called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS, comes from microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. The body responds to this the same way it would to any other type of injury. First, it sends extra blood and nutrients to remove any debris. This phase is called the inflammatory phase, and is usually at its peak 24-36 hours after an intense workout. This is why you may experience soreness during that time. With proper nutrients, minerals and movement, the damaged fibers will repair thicker and stronger within 3-5 days.”
TriggerPoint products focus on soft tissue, which can ultimately be restored via self-myofascial release (ie foam rolling) and facilitate healing in other parts of the body. Foam rolling applies compression on the muscles, which helps to “push” water and fluids out of connective tissue, and fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients back in.
Additionally, using a foam roller encourages the sliding and gliding between the different tissue layers, to remove current “sticky spots” that have built up and prevent future “sticky spots”. The ultimate result of regular foam rolling is quicker recovery, reduced muscle soreness, improved flexibility, and overall better movement.
So we know foam rolling can help you recover, but what should you consider before you start?
Here are some rules to follow:
1. Consider Activity Level
How often you roll should directly align with your level of activity and how often you train or exercise. If you exercise regularly to keep in shape and maintain your health, rolling for 10 or so minutes a day should be sufficient. If you push yourself aggressively by participating in intense or heavy training, you might want to roll more often, for longer periods. It’s that simple.
2. Progress Slowly
If you have been rolling for several weeks or months, then it may be necessary for you to progress your rolling to continue seeing results. To progress, you can increase the amount of weight on the roller or decrease the size and/or increase the density of the roller.
3. Less Is More
The goal is to integrate a daily regimen of muscular maintenance, not to go as hard as you can on day one. To roll as hard as possible is usually too much stress, and the body will respond by building up against it, and not allowing change in the tissue to happen.
4. Complement Current Health Habits
Foam rolling should not replace professional care, but should be considered daily maintenance that you can do on your own on a consistent basis. If you are injured or experiencing a high level or pain, or chronic pain, it’s important to seek the assistance of professionals. Rolling can be thought of kind of like brushing your teeth – you brush regularly to keep your teeth healthy, but you still see your dentist twice a year.