Over the last few years there has been a significant amount of talk and controversy about activities and exercises that are best for runners for preventing injuries and improving performance. The discussion has included the benefits of foam rolling and ball release techniques, stretching, Active Release Technique, yoga, Pilates, CrossFit and strength training, to name a few. Everyone seems to have an opinion. With all of these options, it can be very confusing for runners to decide what will be the most effective. Te truth is all the activities I have mentioned have a benefit. The real question is, which one is best for you? This article and future articles will help you better understand the benefits of these various approaches and hopefully guide you in your training. To begin with, we will look at foam rolling and ball release techniques.
Physical therapists, yoga instructors, personal trainers and others have been promoting the value of using foam rollers or balls to release tension and improve muscle function for years. There are multiple benefits of using foam rolling and ball release techniques. Below are five that can improve your running performance.
1. Increase body awareness: Applying your body weight on a foam roller or ball, and the sensations that come as a result, will bring greater awareness to that area of the body. Much of the tension that we hold in our muscles goes undiscovered until touch or pressure is applied.
2. Muscle Relaxation: Making the effort to relax the muscles while breathing deeply and fully is the most important effort that can be made while foam rolling/ball releasing. Deep, full breaths and muscle relaxation allows the muscle to have greater oxygen exchange and normalizes the nerve conductivity to the muscle, restoring a more normal muscle tension.
3. Improve range of motion: Foam rolling and ball releasing helps relax the muscles. A relaxed muscle allows for greater range of motion.
4. Break up Adhesions: An adhesion (or scar tissue) is muscle tissue that has adhered together. Adhesions effect muscle length, range of motion and strength.
5. Improve joint mechanics: Joint motion is dependent upon a balance between muscle length and strength. Foam rolling and ball releasing can help produce this balance allowing the muscles to work together more efficiently.
For instruction on incorporating foam rolling and ball release techniques into your running and fitness program, or help discover other approaches that can aid your running, contact James Fowler Physical Therapy and schedule a Running Evaluation.