Anywhere you feel tight, there’s a tool to help you release it.
A big part of your flexibility training should include self massage. There are lots tools available to help you get into those tight, sore areas and release them, and these are my five favorite.
The unfortunate truth about self massage.
It frequently hurts. Sorry. It’s just true. I’m not a “no pain, no gain” type of trainer .. except when it comes to self massage, especially the foam roller. Unfortunately, maintaining physical fitness often causes tightness and adhesions in our muscles and connective tissue. Self massage is great for clearing these out. In general, with three of these tools, if it doesn’t hurt at least a little, your most likely don’t actually need to use them. (The Foot Wakers and Stillpoint don’t have to hurt to be beneficial and effective… but they might.)
As you read through these descriptions, take a self inventory and think about what part/parts of your body is/are frequently sore and tight. Prioritize appropriately. If your quads and hips flexors are your #1 issue, it’s all about the foam roller. If it’s your neck or tension headaches, the Stillpoint.
The most used and most evil… the Foam Roller.
My clients “love it” when I lay out the foam roller for them. It’s the medicine no one likes taking. But I’m not a hypocrite. I use this a minimum of twice a week myself because of the cycling and the amount of time I spend sitting at the computer.
The primary use I find for this are the thighs, mostly the quads and the iliotibial band (ITB). You lay your legs on this, roll up and down, feeling it massage into your muscles and fascia, then choose the spot that is the most tender and stay there for 30 seconds so the nervous system can release that area. Yes, you stop at the most tender spot. The ugly truth rears it head.
The Stillpoint Inducer. Pure neck bliss.
So we go from the “meanest” tool to what is probably the nicest tool. The Stillpoint is a treat. If you tend to have a tight neck, if you’re prone to tension headaches or if you simply need a tool to help you unwind and get centered, this is the one for you.
You simply lay on your back and place the Stillpoint under your neck, right at the base of your skull, lining your cervical spine in the crease between the two protrusions. Then you just lay there for 5 minutes. You’ll feel your neck, head and body unwind. To make it even more relaxing, put your foam roller under your knees to keep them bent and your spine will be even more relaxed.
The GRID STK. The foam roller’s more mobile cousin.
My previous choice of this type was The Stick.
Since I originally posted this a better tool has come out, the Trigger Point GRID STK. Like The Stick, it’s a great tool to get into areas where the foam roller doesn’t work as well. However, the GRID is a more rigid bar. It doesn’t bend as much so I find it to be more effective. Also the contoured surface, with the big roller bumps, is more effective in opening up your fascia than the smooth rolling surface of The Stick.
A hand held roller like the GRID STK works well on areas where body weight won’t effectively create enough pressure to make a lasting difference. This is a great tool for the calves (front and back) and the tensor fascia latae. If you’re a serious runner, both the foam roller and GRID should be in your tool box. The stick is also small enough to carry in your luggage when you travel so you can use it on your quads and ITB when you can’t have your roller.
Yamuna Foot Wakers. Happiness for your feet.
I’ve purchased and given away alot of exercise tools and equipment. But I’ve never even thought of giving away my Foot Wakers.
Who can benefit from Foot Wakers? Do you: a) Cycle? b) Run? c) Work standing on your feet? d) Wear high heels? e) Wear shoes at all? If you can say “yes” to any of those, you’ll love Foot Wakers?
Used either standing on sitting on a chair, there are many ways to use these to open your feet. All Foot Wakers come with a DVD from Yamuna explaining how to use them. It’s an excellent tool to prevent or recover from plantar fasciitis.
The Theracane. Trigger point therapy you do on yourself.
If you’ve ever gotten a good deep tissue massage, you know how it’s both painful but beneficial when the therapist takes their thumb or elbow and presses into a specific point, holding it until the tension releases. This is the tool you use to do this on your own.
This tool helps you to release tension and painful areas in your shoulder and trapezius muscles, the big erector muscles along your back and even into your glutes. Like the Stick, the pressure is generated by you so you can dig in or ease off as you need. But don’t ease off too much… come on, you want an effective change don’t you?
So there you have it, my top 5 self massage tools.
I honestly do recommend all of them. As I said, think of which area of your body is chronically sore or tight and get yourself the tool that addresses that area first. When you see how good these tools are, you’ll come back and grab the others!
Hate them? Love them? Curse your trainer for making you use them?
Let it all out in comments! Don’t worry, I won’t rat you out.