Well this week has been a huge milestone for me. My first physical activity in the shape of a walk/run since the end of January. Tiny steps I have been told. The most important rule is that I MUST listen to my body and take it easy. So I did a symptoms check – walk / run to see how much I was out of breath after a short stride through (or slow jog, more to the truth). Not too bad, a pass. Then after the symptoms check – then there was the recovery. I was able to talk quite quickly after my initial puff. Well, the first run wasn’t great, let me tell you. Then my body must have remembered what it used to do and from then the next ones weren’t as bad and my recovery wasn’t too bad (or not as bad as what I thought).
To help with my recovery I have been eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. I think like everyone else around the place I have started to grow my own vegetables again. Given more time at home I have propagated my seeds and am now waiting for them to be big enough to transplant into a ‘big’ garden. The last part of my approach to a healthier body is to not rush my so-called ‘comeback’ to exercise. Slowly, slowly. Take is slow, listen to my body and all things positive, I will be moving back to normal in a while (I hope).
Whether you are training towards a specific goal or to incorporate exercise in your daily life, illness and isolation can disrupt your routine. But only if you let it. This isolation could well give people an opportunity to focus on their wellbeing by not going out and burning the candle at both ends. Instead focusing on getting their body fit and healthy and organising a routine that does not compromise fitness time.
Last week I suggested a couple of fun circuit routines that young athletes could do along with the family. This unprecedented time together at home is a great opportunity to build fitness together. One problem that some might have to deal with is soreness and stiffness in muscles that have not been used for a while.
To help me explain the benefits of foam rolling I have asked one of the sponsors with the Gold Coast Academy of Sport, All Sports Physiotherapy, to provide their professional explanation. A huge thank you to Anthony Rofe, a physiotherapist at the Helensvale practice.
Foam rolling is a self-massage/myofascial release technique. It can be used to help relieve muscle tightness and soreness as well as to mobilise joints which can lead to an increase in your joint range of motion. You can also use a foam roller in some exercises that can help build strength.
Foam rolling can be an effective tool to add to your pre-exercise routine to loosen off tight areas before a session or post- exercise to aid in recovery. It can also be used daily for a more consistent method for muscle release and treatment.
Foam rolling works by releasing trigger points, which are taut bands that occur in a tight muscle. This is achieved by the pressure build up from the roller increasing blood flow into the targeted area. For this to be effective each muscle group needs a total of 1 minute minimum.
You can use a foam roller on most parts of the body and the key is to roll with the direction of the muscle. The other important thing to focus on is to cover the whole length of the muscle, segment by segment. Break the body part/muscle into multiple segments and work each one for a set amount of time before moving on to the next. The more time each segment gets the more effective rolling will be.
To foam roll effectively:
- Break each body part/muscle into thirds: upper, middle and lower
- Roll back and forth on each third for a minimum of 10 seconds with an aim to build to at least 60 seconds on each.
- When first rolling start with minimal body weight. Slowly increase the weight you put through the roller as your body gets used to it.
- Start slow and gradually build to a moderate tempo of rolling only, a fast tempo does not mean it will be any more beneficial.
Overall, well performed foam rolling can be a great tool to relieve muscle tightness and soreness as well as increase joint range of movement. Exercises and rolling performed to reduce stiffness and soreness is done on any muscle of the body. Whether it be the quadriceps, the hamstring, the iliotibial band, the calf, back and so on, rolling can be extremely beneficial performed correctly.
In another way, foam rollers can be used to help improve balance and strength. The following can be a challenging and different circuit to test athletes in different ways. Each exercise should be performed 10 times each and progress through the eight exercises. Have a short rest and then repeat the circuit either one or two times. These exercises are not necessarily performed at speed but controlled, slow and stable.
Foam rolling is an exercise that I encourage the athletes in my squad to do as a regular routine. Whether it is before or after exercise or both, or even during exercise, I cannot state its benefits enough. What I am going to explain now is a unique circuit here which involves foam rollers.
For this circuit you will need a couple of rollers – they should be about the same size if possible but I hope you give this a go and it is as challenging as it is beneficial for your balance and core strength.
- Plank to pike. With both feet on one roller and hands on another roller (you will probably be about 1 1/2m apart. Start in a plank position, with feet on roller still and roll the roller your hands are on towards your feet until the body becomes a pike position. Repeat 10 times. If this is too difficult, just start with hands on the roller and feet on the ground.
- In a side plank position with one hand on a roller, stretch and extend the free arm as high as you can (expanding chest). Then bring it back to about elbow height of supporting arm. Repeat this 10 times right and then do the same on the left side. Ensure that the body is straight and the legs are parallel to each other.
- Lying in a prone position (on stomach) with arms extended so that elbows are on the roller in front of head. Slowly inhale as you roll the roller towards you pulling your shoulder blades down letting your head, chest and upper back rise (in other words, arch your back). Slowly exhale and lower your body to the starting position.
- Mad cat – Place roller under your knees and a second one under your hands in a kneeling position on the floor. Inhale and pull your belly button in to round your back. Then exhale and slowly arch your back, letting your head rise last.
- Pointer balance – In the same position as above, once stable and still, raise your right arm and left leg at the same time to balance. Hold slightly then lower and repeat with left arm and right leg. If this is difficult, just do alternate arms and alternate legs only and as you improve move to doing both at the same time.
- Standing squat. Stand with your back to the wall and place a foam roller horizontally between you and the wall around the level of your lower back. Slowly bend your knees to lower yourself halfway to the floor. The roller will roll up your back so try to maintain body contact with the roller at all times as well as the wall. Then return to standing.