Adam R. Wade is a chiropractic doctor in Newmarket, Ontario. He’s the team doctor for 3Rox Racing and was a national mountain biking team member as a junior who went to the World Championships in 1999.
Dr. Wade. Should I be using a foam roller after workouts?
A foam roller is a simple apparatus that works very well when used for self-myofascial release. This is a great tool that can be used to help loosen up those tight IT bands or hip flexors. The foam roller is a tool used in a broad category called self-myofascial release tools. Unlike stretching, which works to lengthen a muscle either to a pre-exercise length or to a lengthened position, self-myofascial release tools work to release soft tissues (muscle, fascia, ligaments, tendons) from adjacent tissues.
The body is a complex web of tissues that run parallel, perpendicular and every angle in between. With repetitive movement like in cycling, these soft tissues get stuck to one another. The more repetitive the movement, the more likely tissues will adhere to one another. Foam rollers and similar self-myofascial devices are used to break up these adhesions. By rolling parallel and perpendicular to tissues, using your body weight to develop force the adhesions between adjacent soft tissues will become “unglued”.
Using a foam roller will help to decrease tension in muscles felt after a long day in the saddle. Self-myofascial release should be done as an adjunct to your daily training. No research has been done to ascertain as to when foam rolling should be done for maximal benefit. My personal recommendation would be to do it after you ride. Spend 20-30 minutes a day on your foam roller. You will have a tendency to focus mainly on your legs, but don’t forget to use the foam roller on your lower and upper back. There is no set prescribed way to foam roll. Everyone is different. Find an area that is ‘stuck’ feeling and work at it until the tissues become ‘unglued’.
Have a question for Dr. Wade? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and it might be included in a future column.