2021 is turning out to be quite the year, eh.
One good thing to come out of yet another lockdown? Plenty of time to fine-tune your home workout routine (and sourdough skills, and home renovations, for that matter). Although, it’s important to be mindful when ramping up your mileage or increasing your weekly HIIT sessions that you’re increasing your risk of injury, too.
Want to carry on upping your fitness but no so keen to end up with a calf tear or hammy strain leaving you out of action for weeks, or even months?
We’ve got two words for you: foam roller. They’re handy little things, perfect for easing sore muscles and reducing your risk of injury, too.
Lucky for you, we’ve written a whole guide to the best foam rollers currently available to buy, so you don’t have to spend hours on Google trying to figure out which one to *add to basket*.
Whether you’ve got a new-found love of lacing up, a passion for sweaty power yoga flows (great for expending pent-up energy after sitting on Zoom meetings all day), or just want to start showing your body some TLC, a foam roller will never be a bad investment. They’re cheap as chips, super simple to use, and will make you feel like a fitness pro.
Keep reading for everything you need to know pre-investing.
What actually is a foam roller?
In fancy, personal trainer terms, foam rolling actually translates as a form of ‘self-myofascial release’, or SMR for short. It basically includes using a long, cylindrical tube of plastic with a foam coating on the outside to release muscle tightness.
It’s both a performance and a recovery tool. By using one to help your muscles recover after heavy, increased or intense sweat sessions, you’re allowing your body to recover more rapidly, which means you’ll be able to perform more efficiently come your next workout.
Can’t afford a weekly massage or just missing trips to your physio thanks to this ‘new normal’? A foam roller is essential a cheap and cheerful way to do some deep tissue massage of your own, from home.
What do foam rollers do?
Studies have found foam rolling to have a whole heap of health benefits. Regularly using one can relieve muscle tightness, knots, soreness, and DOMS – that’s delayed onset muscle soreness, or the stiffness you feel the day after a hard workout.
Not only that, but foam rollers can reduce inflammation and stimulate blood flow, meaning quicker healing, and speedier recovery.
Do note here, foam rolling isn’t the most enjoyable of experiences. Like a deep tissue massage, it’s a no-pain-no-gain kind of vibe. Think about it: you’re rolling over and releasing muscles knots with a sharp, pointy object, so while your legs (or back, or arms) will feel great afterwards, it is a labour of love.
What are the different types of foam roller?
You can opt for a soft or hard, smooth or ridged, and even vibrating foam roller, depending on what type of massage you’re after.
We’d say at a beginner level, opt for a soft, smooth foam roller like this Decathlon option. They’re slightly less intense and so feel less pressured than the textured roller.
Go for a harder foam roller with bumps, ridges and knobs, like this one from Sports Direct, if you’ve used a roller before and are looking for a more intense massage that can really get into the knots in your legs, back, and arms.
You can also get vibrating foam rollers, like this Therabody Wave roller, to take your recovery to the next level. They’re a much higher price point, but again, are probably worth the investment if you’re exercising five or more times a week.
What should I look for in a foam roller?
It depends on what you’re after. If you’ll be using it semi-regularly, say once or twice a week, opt for one of the cheaper options from Amazon or Decathlon. Planning on using it most days? Then you might want to invest in a slightly higher price point, like this Fitness Mad roller from John Lewis.
Travel regularly (when you’re allowed too, anyway)? There are even cute mini options available from Gaiam at John Lewis and Oliver Bonas. Or, if you’re in the mood to treat yourself, there’s no better option than this beautiful marble-print double roller from Lululemon. We loooove.