Foam Rolling For Dummies
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When foam rolling for a treatment or a workout, it’s important to do it in a safe area. The space where you roll, or your “roller rink,” should be free of any hazards. Most hazards are obvious and clearly visible, but some of the most dangerous risks are harder to find.

Foam rolling surface

Make sure your foam rolling surface is well padded and consistent, as shown. Eliminate any localized slippery or sticky spots on your rolling surface. Ensure that there are no small, sharp objects that can cause injury when a body part is placed on top of them.

foam roller cleaning Photography by Haim Ariav & Klara Cu

Padded and consistent surface for rolling

If you’re rolling on an elevated deck or porch, it is wise to also make sure the underside of the entire rolling surface is well supported.

Your roller rink will go vertical as well, including on walls. Make sure the wall surface you will use is strong and supportive, as shown. The concern here is not the wall falling down; that will rarely happen. The typical concern is that parts of the wall surface may cave in. Poorly supported drywall or too much pressure on a hard roller ball can result in dents in the drywall.

solid wall Photography by Haim Ariav & Klara Cu

Solid wall with plenty of space to move and twist

Foam roller rink real estate

Having enough floor and wall space to move in all four directions is important. A general rule of thumb, when appropriate, is to estimate how much floor surface area you need for your rolling treatment or workout, then double it. To start with, a twelve-by-eight-foot padded or carpeted space is sufficient for the average-sized person. Having worked with various professional athletes, I’ve noticed that they need a much bigger plot of land to roll out, as shown.

rollers used by elite athletes Photos courtesy of Hyperice

Rollers are used by athletes in every sport: Colleen Quigley (Olympian steeplechase runner), Brett Simpson (Head Coach, USA Olympic Surf Team) and Bec Wilcox (elite running coach).

When using a wall, it doesn’t require much space. Typically, a four-foot-wide wall is all you need. The important thing is that you have clear access to the wall. Avoid chairs, tables, pictures, lights, or windows that you have to work around. You also need a stable floor with good traction as you move, bend, and twist against the wall during roller ball treatments.

Objects in the foam roller rink

Any object located inside the roller rink is a potential hazard. These objects may include furniture, workout equipment, smartphones, extraterrestrial creatures (just making sure you’re awake), iPads, pets, or people.

Move objects out of your space before you start to roll. Clearing the needed space beforehand helps you relax during your treatment. Not having to think about banging into a table or a rock in the grass while you’re rolling frees your mind to focus on breathing, maintaining perfect position, and unlocking tight muscles.

Objects positioned over the foam roller rink

It’s easy to simply focus on the ground or the wall when rolling. Take some time to look for objects positioned above your roller rink for potential cranial collisions. These objects don’t have to be hanging from the ceiling to be a potential problem for a roller. Hazards can include ceiling lights, tables, tree branches, pull-up bars, door handles, and open cabinet doors.

Objects landing in the foam roller rink

At first, this heading may sound far-fetched, but hear me out on this one. When rolling at home, you should avoid being injured by friendly fire. Friendly fire includes fast-walking spouses, high-energy kids, and love-seeking pets. In a gym or sports setting, keep a watchful eye open for projectile balls or fast-moving athletes.

Rollin’ on the road

When travelling to races domestically and around the world, I often find myself packed into small hotel rooms or mobile RV homes the night before the race. As you probably know, hotel rooms in most countries are much smaller than those we commonly see in the United States. It makes rolling and stretching more challenging.

I ran in a long Spartan Beast Race in northern Montana in May of 2018. My wife, 9-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter, and I packed into an RV mobile home for the adventure shown in the following photo. The limited space in the mobile home was less than ideal for my daily rolling and stretching routine.

foam rolling while travelling Photo courtesy of author

Rollin' on the road

My solution: I took my show outside. My family knowingly shook their heads as I rolled in the Old Faithful parking lot at Yellowstone National Park; on a Wyoming dirt campsite next to a 3-foot-high pile of snow; and in the wet, cold grass next to a flooded river in a town with the coolest of names: Anaconda, Montana.

Here’s the cool thing about doing what I do. My kids love it! They both do Spartan Kids races and love to join me during my rolling sessions. Kids are so energetic and joyful about new “roller games” with their parents. We make it fun to pass the time in a healthy way.

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