The activity you love to hate (if you know what it is)

Foam Rolling.

Those two words can make the strongest person whimper. Well, I’m here to tell you that foam rolling, or self-myofascial release (SMR), has had a bad rap. I’m a new, enthusiastic convert. When you go to a massage therapist, you know it can really hurt when they hit a specific spot – and it usually feels much better when they’re finished, right? Well, the same goes for SMR, and you control the pressure.

I’m going to back up a bit for those of you who haven’t a clue as to what I’m talking about. SMR refers to the use of a variety of tools to relieve tight and overused muscles by applying pressure to specific points. SMR mimics massage techniques, which is a bonus since you can do when you have time wherever you want.

Everyone can benefit from SMR, just as anyone can benefit from a massage. In fact, everyone *should* use SMR.

My mantra is “Just Move!” Movement is healthy – but overuse and imbalances of tightness/weakness of certain muscle groups inhibit our ability to move with ease. SMR helps to re-establish proper movement patterns which have been altered by lifestyle factors – such as poor posture, intense workouts, poor hydration/nutrition, lack of sleep, etc. When muscles behave with more flexibility, you can prevent injury and obtain better balance, as well as increase strength, performance, and the ability to move without pain.

Think about it, when you sit at your desk or in a car all day, how do you feel? Pretty lousy and stiff, right? You keep working muscles that are tired and stressed, you’re going to end up with problems. This is a time when you can use SMR. When you roll with a grid, roller, or balls, etc., you’re increasing blood flow and flexibility just as a massage does.

Although the pressure applied by the tools may be uncomfortable, it should never be unbearable. It is valuable in repairing the body to prevent and/or alleviate greater pain. When muscles become tight, they pull at joints and can cause greater problems. For example, when your quadriceps tighten, they pull at the tendon running behind your kneecap and can cause pain during even the least bit of activity. Using a foam roller or ball applies pressure to the muscle. This compression helps to relax the overactive and strained muscle while breaking down adhesions that have formed in the tissue.

When do you use SMR? Well, besides “when it hurts” (don’t wait that long!}, it’s best to perform SMR in the morning, no matter what is ahead of you – whether you’re going to work-out or go to the office. Using SMR in the morning warms up your body and relieves any tension created overnight. Preparing for movement of any kind by releasing tightness and elongating the muscles will decrease the chances of injury, shorten the amount of time needed to warm up, and create better range of motion to put the body in better alignment.

Perform SMR before a workout. Your body will move more freely and can reduce the opportunity for soreness post workout.

You can do a little experiment. Do a few pushups, paying attention to your how your chest and back feel. Now roll your triceps really good, then do a few more pushups. The movement should feel smoother and easier. Imagine your body feeling lighter and easier to move. Well, you don’t have to imagine it, you can make it happen.

Performing SMR after any activity, whether it’s the end of a workday or after a workout, you can reduce stiffness and soreness, preventing future injury by catching tightness before it settles in. Be proactive.

Now that I’ve written all this, the question may be, “how do I learn how to do this?” Many people have both therapy balls and foam rollers or grids…and most don’t know how to use them properly. Both my business partner, Elizabeth (massage therapist), and I have been certified to teach techniques of foam rolling. You can go to and schedule an appointment or look for classes that will be offered. Check our schedule for upcoming dates.

You can also write me and let me know if you want to receive our monthly newsletter and keep up with all workshops and classes we offer.

We are also offering workshops for sports teams, both adult and high school, so if you may be interested in those, please contact me at 502.939.1757 and I will be glad to provide more information.

Personal Trainer Dilemma

I have a problem. I keep seeing people come in here who want to train, work hard with a goal in mind….and they are totally jacked up physically (that’s a technical term, of course). What I mean by that is that from years of working, they have developed compensations that are preventing them from moving effectively — and many of them have recurrent pain or injuries.

Many want to work their “core”. Unfortunately, what they think is the core is the rectus abdominus….that six-pack muscle that we want to see “ripple and rip”. While I have to admit that looks pretty darn good, it’s not the core. The core of the body is lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) — lower back, pelvic, hips, butt. There are between 29 and 35 muscles that attach to the lumbar spine or pelvis. That’s a LOT! Since the LPHC is in the center of our bodies, it’s directly associated with both upper and lower extremities…so, dysfunction in the LPHC can directly *affect* lower and upper extremities and vice versa.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten a little technical, what does all that mean? Here’s an example: You chronically have low back pain. So you take anti-inflammatories, some pain killers, and lay on a heating pad. That may take it away for a while, but you haven’t really addressed the problem. You probably have weak gluteus maximus and minimus muscles (as most do) and have a pelvis that tilts so that you have a great curve in your lumbar spine. What do we do to help? We activate those glutes and build the muscles that help keep that pelvis tilted more to the rear, while also relaxing those that keep it pulled to the front. That’s a simplified, short version of what to do, but you get the idea.

Now back to the dilemma. How do I put together a class to meet the expectations of clients yet not continue to exacerbate existing problems?

  1. Put together a program which works on chronically weak muscle groups and systems in the general population
    • most people have certain muscles that are already overworked. Implement exercises that strengthen those that are generally weaker while also inhibit and stretch those that are over active in warm-up.
  2. Stress the *correct* way to perform an exercise
    • doing a great number of squats incorrectly just to get the numbers in doesn’t do a lot of good. Slow down, make sure the back is straight, butt is tucked, knees don’t go over toes, knees don’t turn in or out (they should be in line with the second toe), and push up through the heels. It will burn more….and is harder to do.
  3. Watch individual clients to check for compensations
    • pay attention to individuals in the class to see if and how they are compensating. If they are, understand why it’s happening and offer an alternative exercise, if necessary, until the imbalance can be corrected.
  4. Work at intervals for greater cardio training and fat burning
    • pairing exercises that alternate bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity in the tabata protocol (20 sec work, 10 sec off, 4 sets each) will help improve cardio performance, burn more fat, and is less boring than a traditional workout. It also allows for you to work at your own level rather than that of others.

Now those are my own solutions, which writing this has helped me work through. Your trainer may have different goals, but remember, your class should help you, not hurt you. Pay attention to your own body and talk to your instructor if you are having pain in any part of your body (other than burn). You should be able to make changes when you need them to help you.

Get moving and have fun!!!