What are those foam roller things, and what on earth do I do with them?
Foam Rollers are basically a cylinder of foam that we use to relax tense muscles in the gym, without needing to go get a massage all the time. Technically, the term used is Self Myofascial Release (SMR), but that seems to be a misnomer, at least according to some researchers. There is widespread disagreement on fascia, which is basically tough connective tissue that protects and sheaths the inside of the body. It's true function is two-fold--it provides a protective layer over the muscles, nerves (basically every structure in the body is covered by this tough web), and it protects against infections, much like the skin. It's most critical job is as an infection barrier--layers of fascia limit the spread of infections. (Ingraham, 2013)
The main disagreement in all of the research is whether foam rolling is efficacious, and what it actually does to fascia, if anything. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter that much. It highly depends on what effect we are seeking. Because this is a new field of research, there is bound to be disagreement, and even conflicting studies. Schleip, 2003, found that in neurophysiological models, which are now becoming more widely accepted than the older, mechanical models, myofascial release is thought to stimulate intra-fascial mechanoreceptors, which cause alterations in the afferent input to the central nervous system, leading to a reduction in the activation of specific groups of motor units. This basically means that rather than affecting the physical muscle or fascia, rather it sends signals to the brain through afferent nerves, which then signals the brain to relax the tissues' excessively tightened state.
All research aside for a moment, does a massage feel good to you? Does is seem to loosen and relieve sore muscles? A foam roller will give you the same effect, but you do it yourself. So the next time you are in the gym, pick one up and give it a try. Below is a headache remedy utilizing a foam roller. Give it a shot!
Rolling, rolling, rolling... Upper back and neck rolling helps to relieve sore muscles that hold stress and give you tension headaches. Above, I've pictured my favorite way to relieve this. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, and press your neck and the back of your head into the foam roller, turning from right to left, and back.
Preparation4 (6-ounce) red potatoes
2 teaspoonsolive oil
1/2 cupprechopped onion
1 1/4 cupsfat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoonsall-purpose flour//arrowroot or rice flour will work
1. Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave on HIGH 13 minutes or until tender. Cut in half; cool slightly.
2. While potatoes cook, heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth. Combine flour and 1/2 cup milk; add to pan with 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil; stir often. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream, salt, and pepper.
3. Arrange bacon on a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a paper towel; microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes. Crumble bacon.
4. Discard potato skins. Coarsely mash potatoes into soup. Top with cheese, green onions, and bacon.
Garland pose: the yoga pose of the week-- Known as a hip opener, garland pose is a deep squat that you can achieve either by coming from the floor, or from a standing position. Bring the hands to prayer, and use the elbows to help push your knees out to the sides, opening the hips.