This post is brought to you by Raphael Konforti, the Fitness Education Coordinator for Youfit.
Our lives are tough, busy and stressful. We say that we carry stress on our stomachs and backs, but the truth is we carry it everywhere. Unfortunately, the body adapts rather quickly to things like sitting and poor movement patterns. This causes tight and overactive muscles, increasing not only the physical but also the mental stress our bodies feel.
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) is a powerful tool to decrease stress levels for all aspects of the body. SMR is a fancy way to describe “self-applied massage.” You’ve probably done it unconsciously already. Think of a time your shoulder or knee ached and you rubbed it to make it feel better.
SMR works by relieving tension and relaxing overactive muscles through massaging the fascia that runs through the body. Fascia is connective tissue that covers and binds together all our muscles and organs. It travels everywhere, from head to toe, in every path imaginable.
Over time, posture, injuries or muscular imbalances cause adhesions (little knots) and restrictions (tightness) in the fascia. Using a foam roller on these areas is one of the most effective ways to get our fascia and muscles functioning properly to reduce stress.
How To Foam Roll
To start, try foam rolling on these typically tight and overactive muscles:
- Quads/Hip Flexors
- Thoracic Spine (Upper back between the shoulder blades)
To begin, place the foam roller flat on the ground. Roll from end to end of the muscle going at a rate of one inch per second while breathing. As you roll over the muscle several times, identify any points of discomfort. When you find an area of discomfort, rest on that spot for 30 seconds while continuing to breathe. This will release tension and adhesions. To relieve even more stress, add in a stretch for the area, holding it for 30–60 seconds.
SMR is intended to relieve tension, not to be painful or too uncomfortable. Adjust your body position or the density of the foam roller to ensure that the proper amount of pressure is applied. The pressure should range from a 4–7 intensity level out of 10.
When To Foam Roll
SMR can be done anytime but is most effective before workouts. Research to date has found that the more frequently you do it, the more effective it is. Performing SMR daily and even multiple times per day has a huge impact on stress and tension. Also try incorporating a recovery/flexibility day into your weekly routine using SMR.
For more guidance on SMR or to find out which areas to foam roll for optimal stress reduction, schedule an assessment with your fitness director or ask a YouCoach.
Raphael Konforti is the Fitness Education Coordinator for Youfit. He has a Masters of Exercise Science and has worked in many different areas of fitness including collegiate recreation, international resorts and fitness publishing. Aside from the gym, he loves spending his time active and outdoors going surfing, diving, hiking, practicing yoga or pushing cars down the street.