Restoration Fitness: Use Foam Rollers and ‘Recovery’ Classes to Up Your Game

Myofascial release will help maintain flexibility, power and strength

Are you optimizing your recovery?

Are you optimizing your recovery? Swaraj Tiwari/Unsplash

Given the surge in popularity of high-intensity workouts over the last decade, it’s no wonder people have started questioning the sustainability of their fitness regimens. Even though you may be able to afford a top-tier gym membership, can your body keep up? Enter: Classes focused on mobility and recovery, a new category suggesting more and more people are striving to find not only work-life balance, but also workout balance.

Recovery is the key word, and it’s important to understand that rest and recovery are very different. With “Netflix and chill” now a known mainstream reset—and because our work culture is productivity-driven—TV and Thai food sound like a great way to reward our overworked bodies and brains. But catching up on Stranger Things won’t repair your muscles.

As savvy gym-goers of 2017, we’ve read about anti-inflammatory diets, we drink enough water each day, we get a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis, and we fit in our leafy green protein shakes. If that isn’t adequate, what gives? While you might be on the right track if you’re active—or have repetitive movement patterns (hello, sitting)—research highlights the importance of setting aside time for actively restorative classes or self-care, like static stretching and myofascial release.

“Fascia” refers to the connective tissues of the body, while “myo” means muscle. Research has indicated that fascia, like muscle, contracts and relaxes and is a key player in joint mobility and stability. As we exercise and go through the course of daily life, injuries, stresses and strains can emerge, causing a tightening of the fascia. Myofascial release, like foam rolling and roller massage, can lengthen the connective tissues surrounding the muscles, allowing our bodies to maintain or even regain flexibility, power and strength, while preventing future injuries.

According to a study by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, evidence suggests that both foam rolling and roller massage may offer short‐term benefits for increasing joint range of motion (ROM) without detracting from muscular performance. Another study showed that post-exercise fatigue after foam rolling was significantly less, suggesting that reduced fatigue may allow participants to extend workout time and volume, both of which lead to enhanced athletic performance.

While foam rollers and roller massagers have become more visible in fitness shops and gyms, few people know how to use them; most assume that they’re simply new torture devices for trainers. While we know that massagers of higher densities have stronger effects and that even better effects are possible when these devices are combined with static stretching post-exercise, that doesn’t offer the general public a recovery format to follow. Fortunately, studios have started popping up nationwide with classes geared specifically toward myofascial repair.

In Dallas, Atlas Stretch Therapy offers foam rolling, static stretching, dynamic stretching and reflexology-focused training, through group training classes, private sessions and massage. Henry Street Pilates of New York offers a weekly “Steady and Roll” class, and Function 5 Fitness in Los Angeles offers “Tune Up” classes, centered around foam rolling, stretching, trigger point therapy and dynamic movements. As the recovery-focused movement gains popularity, more and more training associations are adding certifications for myofascial release techniques, so you can also check with your local gym to see which of their trainers are educated in this area.

Just like any other fitness goal, the art of relaxation and restoration takes time and practice. Rather than ignoring the recovery class options on your gym app or skipping the five-minute stretch at the end of your spin class, remember that your performance and bodily health will improve if you spend a few minutes working toward recovery. Grab a friend, toss a foam roller their way, and let out a few collective grunts as you help your body stay healthy for the long haul.

Chelsea Vincent has been teaching fitness for almost ten years. Prior to teaching, she had 15 years of formal dance training. Chelsea has a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and is a certified power yoga instructor, spinning instructor, barre instructor, and weightlifting Instructor, as well as an ACE-certified personal trainer and wellness specialist.

Restoration Fitness: Use Foam Rollers and ‘Recovery’ Classes to Up Your Game