Linda Melone
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How to roll out tight muscles

The past few weeks I talked about ways to stay fit and avoid gaining 150 lbs while quarantined with stockpiles of canned ravioli and buckets of cookie dough ice cream. 

I’m taking it back. All of it. 

Well, except for the canned ravioli comment. That’s literally all of us.

Because while I try to remain optimistic regardless of rain, snow, locusts and global catastrophes, I’m losing this battle. 

I feel as if I’m constantly fighting off a wet blanket of depression – one of the weighted kind that’s heavy to begin with. I can lift off a corner or two but it’s not long before the whole king-sized weight crashes on me the minute I let down my guard.

As much as I try to make light of all this mess, it’s slowly seeping into my system… like when you sit on a wet bench but don’t realize it until it creeps its way into your pants and you stand up and everyone laughs because you have a ginormous wet spot on your butt.

Like that.

Can you relate?

If so, the (sort of) good news is we’re not alone.

Turns out, not being about to live life as we knew it four weeks ago (let’s have a moment of silence for that lost era) triggers an actual grieving process.

We are grieving the loss of economic stability, our ability to move around freely and the ability to participate in life’s milestones in person. 

To make matters worse, many of us (*raises hand*) feel guilty because we know others are having a way worse time than us.

But experts say “loss is loss,” regardless of the size (see the above link for details).

The (kinda) good news: It’s totally normal. 

Give yourself some slack. 

Take care of yourself the best you can.

But don’t beat yourself up for not being productive/ not working out and/or for eating half the emergency rations you’ve stored in front of your secret stash of toilet paper in your bedroom closet.

Yup, I see you. 

So if you gain a few pounds (as I’m sure I have by now)… let it go. (Yes, it’s still me, I haven’t been taken over by an extraterrestrial.)

Personally, I’ve stopped weighing myself to avoid putting more pressure on myself because I can’t get to the gym. 

Perspective, my friend. It’s what this situation gives us.

Having said that, I wanted to awkwardly segue here a way to unkink tight muscles from being less active than normal… foam rolling.

Stretching is great but using a foam roller works muscles differently.

You don’t need an “official” foam roller, either.

A tennis ball in a sock works similarly. HERE’S THE ROLLER I USE (a link from my Amazon store, where I earn a small commission).

In case you haven’t seen a foam roller, it’s exactly as it sounds: a log-shaped piece of hard foam, typically 36-inches long, although you can get a smaller, half-size version. 

They’re traditionally white, but once fashionistas caught wind of them they’re now available in just about every color, some with bumps, ridges and a host of other accouterments to ensure your muscles never forgive you.

‘Cause here’s the thing: If you use it correctly, it hurts like the dickens (not Charles Dickens, since these torture objects did not even exist in his time).

It’s not comfortable until the session ends and you feel better.

Here’s how it works: Lying or pressing a body part over a foam roller breaks up the fascia surrounding the muscle so the muscle — (warning: grossness ahead!) picture the white tissue surrounding a chicken breast — is able to stretch more effectively. It helps increase blood flow to the muscle by getting rid of adhesions in your muscles.

Even sounds painful.

It’s why the technique is referred to as self-myofascial release, a.k.a. Self-massage. Research shows it can improve athletic performance, speed workout recovery, and decrease muscle pain.

In other words, it’s a good hurt. Some manufacturers offer softer foam rollers if the standard ones are too much to start. 

Here are the general rules of foam rolling:

  1. Use it before your workout as part of your warm-up and/or after your workout to speed recovery and ease muscle  pain
  2. Roll over it slowly and pause at “trigger points” points in the muscle that are particularly painful; breathe and try to relax the muscle to allow the foam roller to gently loosen the knot 
  3. Move on to other parts and repeat
  4. Include it along with traditional stretches, in addition to or in place of, whenever you feel you need to untie some serious knots
  5. Remember to breathe! We tend to hold our breath when stretching and foam rolling, but breathe into the stretch and focus on relaxing the muscle to get the most out of it

Here’s a video I made to help you with the basics…


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About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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