Foam Rolling 101: The Basics + How to Choose a Foam Roller

I am somewhat in denial that I am turning 36 (yes, THIRTY-SIX!!!) at the end of this month. I am officially in my late thirties, which means I’m on the downhill slide towards FORTY (gulp). This is absolute craziness to me because most of the time I forget I’m not still 20!! Clearly evidenced by my continual attempts at cheer stunting, back handspring-ing, toe touching, hardcore exercising, and silly-dancing-like-no-one-is-watching shenanigans…well into this 4th decade. 

Age is a tough pill for me to swallow, to be honest. I don’t like the thought of ever slowing down because of it. Contrary to what we may have seen our parents do, or maybe generations of the past, AGE DOES NOT NEED TO STOP US! But as we age, it does become increasingly more important to take care of the bodies that we have to maximize our ability to continue performing at the levels we want to for years to come.

Since I’ve known Chris, I’ve always teased him about how it takes him 30 minutes to warm up and another 20 minutes to stretch and cool down! I, on the other hand, have always just done little hug stretch, maybe quickly touched my right toe, then my left….and I’d be off doing flips, kicks, jumps, squats, burpees, runs…you name it. No warm up needed! Until now…

These days, I need it. Lately, I have noticed that after a good workout, or even too much time on my feet, I end up feeling a bit more of those 36 years (and then some)?especially when it comes to my body’s mobility. I’ve noticed that if I don’t take the time to focus on stretching, flexibility, and mobility, my muscles and joints start talking to me for DAYS/WEEKS to a point where my structural imbalances really start becoming noticeable (especially in my hips and shoulders). 

Outfit Details: Reebok Leggings – on SALE (similar here for under $20), Reebok Cropped Tank (love this similar longer style available in four colors and under $15 here), Nike Sports Bra (also available in gray)

Taking the time to do simple things like warming up, stretching, and foam rolling at the appropriate times has definitely help combat these aches, pains, imbalances, knotted up muscles, and my overall ever-decreasing flexibility. NOTE: While I have posted on social media that I am trying to foam roll every day, I have recently learned from experience this is a no-no. Rolling (especially IT bands, which we will get into) should only be done 2-3 times a week to benefit the muscles yet not traumatize the tissue too much.

Today I’m laying out for you WHY we foam roll, WHAT the benefits are, and HOW to choose a foam roller. Next week, be prepared, because I have a blog jam-packed with exercises for you to try out! Here we go…

What is foam rolling? The technical term is Myofascial Release?“myo,” meaning muscle, and “fascia” is the layer on the outside of the muscle. We all know what “release” means, so let’s dive a little deeper to learn what’s really going on. Little human anatomy lesson: Fascia is densely woven connective tissue that covers and joins together groups of muscles (myo), like your quads, for example. The fascia supports these muscle groups and their surrounding bones, keeping them stable and allowing the muscle groups to pull in the correct direction. The fascia is SUPER important, yet we rarely give it the attention it deserves! Welcome to Physiology 101 with Heidi. Let’s dig EVEN deeper. ?

Picture it like this: Our muscles are like tennis balls, and the fascia is the sack you keep your tennis balls in to protect them, keep them together so they?re not rolling all over the place, and help them last longer.

When fascia is healthy, it?s relaxed and pliable so we can move like we need to?it?s like a freshly paved road that?s easy to drive on. But when it gets traumatized?like when your muscles get inflamed after an awesome gym workout?it loses its flexibility. That smooth road now becomes a road loaded with potholes, which makes “driving” (moving, stretching, etc.) more difficult. And this ?road full of fascia potholes? can lead to injuries and imbalances, which can be a huge?and often painful?roadblock on your transformation journey. I have realized that I don’t have time OR the patience for these injuries, so foam rolling is a MUST for me!

Besides sore and inflamed muscles, what other issues can foam rolling help with? Check these out!

Foam rolling is seriously a magical muscle tool!

So how do you know which foam roller(s) to choose? 

It can be a bit confusing, so I’m sharing my best foam rolling tips and tricks!

How to choose a Foam Roller:

Low Density: These are great for exercise classes or if your muscles are super sore. They?re softer than the other foam rollers, so you can put pressure on those tender muscles a bit easier.

Medium Density: If you?re not sure which density to get, this one should work. It?s a good balance between low and firm, and it can be used for everything you need a foam roller to do.

Firm Density: These are great for a deeper, more intense myofascial release.

Textured: These babies are great for digging into specific areas in your muscles, especially those trigger points.

Vibrating: This is a Powell Pack fave. While a vibrating foam roller is on the higher price point, it’s worth the investment. These are great for a double-punch, two-in-one: Digging deep into muscle areas, while providing an extra vibration that intensifies the effects of the foam roller, something you don’t get with a traditional roller. 

Foam rollers also come in different sizes, and depending on what you want to do, you might prefer a longer one for larger areas or a shorter one to specifically target a smaller area. 

Now that you’ve decided on the best foam roller for you, here are some foam rolling tips:

1. Gently emphasize areas of tightness during each exercise. If you have an injury, DO NOT roll directly on the injury. Instead, roll away from it.
2. For upper body exercises, always avoid contact with your spine.
3. Pay attention to your form throughout each exercise. This is a slow and methodical process, not a quick-and-done one. ?
4. Roll for 1 minute?aiming to cover the muscle 3-4 times, then rest for 30 seconds in between rolls. 
5. Aim for 2-3 sessions a week. Or before and after workouts is great too!
6. If rolling causes too much pain during any exercises, simply omit the rolling part of the exercise and apply as much pressure as you can stand while keeping the foam roller in one place on the muscle(s). Then roll to another part of the muscle and repeat, making sure you work the entire muscle.

So…ready to give foam rolling a try? I promise?you will not regret it. Get your fave foam roller ready to go because I’ll be posting some ah-mazing exercises at the beginning of next week! ?



Related reading:

Relieve Achy Knees with These 3 Simple Moves
Our 12 Month Transformation, Month Three: Hydration!
The Essentials || My Workout Playlist
Fitness is Fun: Pilates

14 Responses

  1. Love this post! I have been back and forth on if foam rolling would be beneficial to me. And how to go about starting. I am a mom of two and the gym is my little bit of me time during the week. I have been going harder the last few months as summer is approaching ? and I am in definite need of some muscle relief! ?? Thanks for all the helpful tips. Ig handle; tkg16

  2. I LOVE foam rolling- this post has some great tips! Would really work well for someone who wins a Booty Band & needs to relax those muscles after a tough workout. LOL @krismacg

  3. Hi ! I enjoyed this post but I have a question! How do you foam roll when on the road. Most hotels don?t carry them in the gym and they are quite bulky to travel with. My handle on IG is clari_bel_

  4. These tips are so helpful because I only know a few techniques and foam rolling helps SO much!! @gbitty

  5. Thank you for the awesome tips!! I?m a mom and Gym rat and never make time for stretching, rolling or mobility, so ouch! At 35 the aches are lingering more than I?d like to admit….can?t wait to try these out !! IG Handle: rene_adams

  6. Heidi, thank you for the tips! J know foam rolling is so so good for the body but I don?t have the discipline to always do it! I?m going to implement these tips and hold myself account able!

  7. Love this post! I’ve always loved using the foam rollers, which makes it even better when I can read all the benefits to it 🙂 Thank you for all the tips on your blog!
    Instagram: @meganforstie

  8. Love rolling so many benefits, thank for sharing and your rocking the workout pants! Might have to get some.

  9. Thanks for the tips and inspiration. 36 is young! ? I am 53. Started doing Crossfit at 49. I hike regularly and teach 3rd grade. I don’t recover as quickly as I used to, but that’s okay. I have more energy than most of my co-workers who are younger than me. Thank you for inspiring and motivating people to get or stay active. My motto, “As long as I’m still alive, I’m going to keep moving and enjoy every moment the good Lord gives me. I’ll rest when I’m dead.”

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