Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recovery Pt. II: Foam Rolling

In Crossfit your workout stays with you all day.  After I walk (or sometimes limp) to work, I spend the morning recharging my system. TONS of water, some caffeine (either black coffee or coffee with almond milk), some fruit and a little sodium replenishment (more on that later).  Throughout the day and night I'm in a constant state of either recovery or preparation for the next WOD.  The Paleo Diet is a major contributor to my nutritional approach to recovery.  But there are far more things to consider beyond nutrition if you're going to optimize your Crossfit experience.  Lately I've been doing five WODs a week, which by my standards even a few months ago is a lot, but I've basically accepted my addiction and I'm making the most of it.  Today's recovery segment deals with one aspect of my evening preparation for the next day's WOD.  This is a simple but beautiful way to reset your spine, your hips, glutes and your legs so that you're primed and ready for more intensity, while minimizing the chance of injury and/or soreness.  This amazing daily practice is foam rolling.

Standard Firm Foam Rollers
I first got a foam roller from my buddy Scott for the holidays last year.  It's a standard foam cylinder, very firm on the outside...much harder than the rollers we have at Crossfit NYC.  At first it was very painful to roll out my back, but I stuck with it because I studied up on the benefits of "delamination".  This is a process of kneading away superficial layers of a type of tissue in our bodies called "fascia". Picture a thin layer of malleable saran wrap around the outer layers of our muscles.  Over time it can adhere to our muscles, essentially laminating them and causing tightness.  The less we pull fascia apart the more it wraps tightly around our muscles, causing inflammation and restricting our range of motion.  In a practice like Crossfit, compromising your range of motion by limiting activities like foam rolling can be dangerous over time.  No doubt this activity is painful at first, and will be for some time.  But this pain is something to embrace and work through.  Without working through this pain you will not see benefits of foam rolling, and you will not keep your fascia in check, which is terrible for your Crossfitting.  I noticed as the weeks went by that rolling out my back, quads, and IT bands (lengthy muscles on your side that stretch from below your hips to your midsection) became less and less painful, and foam rolling at night became more of a way to self-adjust my back (saves visits to the chiropractor and feels GREAT!) and reset my muscles, preparing them for more work.  That's when I stepped it up and got myself a RUMBLE ROLLER.
Various models of the Rumble Roller

The Rumble Roller is absolutely no joke.  This thing is insane.  It's basically a firm foam roller with hard little nubs surrounding it.  The nubs provide an advanced level of kneading and pulling as you roll, and at first I was in absolute agony using this thing.  But over time, just like with it's traditional predecessor, the Rumble Roller has now become pretty standard during my evening recovery exercises.  I start by rolling out my back and hips with the standard roller, and then I use the Rumble to get into deeper, more painful spots.  The difference has been phenomenal, and just last week I rolled out my back and hips, and along with some mobility work to prepare (more on this later) I set a 40-lb deadlift PR at 425 lbs.  Now I will never point to anything as a silver bullet, so if your nutrition is weak, you barely stretch, and you're new to foam rolling you will not see explosive gains in your Crossfitting just from foam rolling.  But if you combine this activity with a solid arsenal of recovery methods, you will notice major differences in performance, and Crossfit will become an even better, safer experience.

Foam Rolling Videos -
Mobility WOD I
Mobility WOD II

Foam Rolling Articles
- Crossfit Nor'Easter
                                    Crossfit Invictus

Puchase LinksStandard Foam Roller
                         Rumble Roller

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