Desensitise and Move


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Foam Rolling or Self Massage is a recovery tools that swings in and out of favour. Its can make you feel good, but what do they actually do?  And should we be doing them? 

The key to this debate, is centred around the narrative that goes alongside their use.  Is it a magic bullet that should be used in isolation?  No.  Should it be part of an athlete’s tool box to help them get move into active recovery. Absolutely.

First and foremost, we need to get the staples of recovery right. Sleep. Hydration. Nutrition.  Then comes the ‘active recovery jigsaw’.

The day after a hard exercise session, we can be sore, achy, our nervous system is fatigued and our range is restricted.  We don’t relish getting up the next day, but we need to get moving to engage in some light active recovery sessions to stimulate and support the bodies recovery mechanisms.  But getting straight into that is hard going. 

Research has consistently has demonstrated self-massage reduces perceptions of soreness and fatigue post exercise, it feels great, but what is it doing?  Is it breaking down scar tissue, or changing muscle tissue at a cellular level or increasing blood flow?  Probably not.   The likely mechanism cited in the research is the localised desensitisation of the nervous system.  Allowing those sore, tight spots in muscle tissue to fade.   Is there any evidence for vibration or fancy undulating surfaces over straight forward pressure - termed as ischemic pressure.  No.  Simple is king.

So we can start our recovery session by grabbing the Roller, Peanut or Sphere and gently rolling out areas that have been worked hard and feel sore – to desensitise them.  The research suggests aiming for 60 – 90 secs on the main muscle groups involved in running, namely, glutes, quads, hammies, calfs and even the soles of your feet. 

We then have to capitalise on this as the window of desensitisation is short-lived, so get your mat out and work into some active recovery.  Something like a light five to ten-minute yoga flow routine to slightly elevate your heart rate to encourage your metabolism, to increase blood flow and to lightly load tissue creating length through their range in multiple directions.  

Putting the above together for 10-15 minutes in a session can make all the difference to your readiness to take on the next day.  Give it a go and tell us how your feel!!