Thursday, 25 October 2018

All about the foam roller!

Every athlete I know either has a foam roller, or wishes they did! These rollers come in many shapes and forms, from 3 foot long dense foam cylinders, to kitchen rolling pins, to fancy fabricated tubes that double as a kit carrying case. 

But does everyone really know how many uses their foam roller has? This blog is to show you the three main categories of foam roller use, and a few examples of application!

Self Massage 

I think this is the use that most people are familiar with: The 'hurts so good' rolling out of tight or bunched up muscles to get relieve without having to go to the therapist. 

Rolling 'knots' or trigger points in your muscles can be very therapeutic, and can help you feel good after a long workout, assist with your stretching routine, and sometimes speed recovery from injuries. 

The great thing about rolling as a self massage technique is that you control the pressure, duration and intensity of the session! There are a few ground rules though: 
- Rolling should not bruise your skin! If it does, talk to your therapist to make sure you're doing it right. If you need that much pressure to feel like it's working, you might need some treatment
- Start slow and increase over time! The first time you roll, don't do 10 body parts for 3 minutes each! Maybe start with 30 seconds per part, and start with 2-3 key areas. If you get a good response, increase a bit day by day.
- Never roll completely cold! Either heat up with a bit of mild exercise (10-15 minutes walking, jogging or biking), or externally with a hot shower (I like the exercise option better! Gets a deeper heat). 
- You control the pressure! If something is too intense, shift your weight off the roller and onto your supporting limb. Start by rolling out one limb at a time, and add in the partner next time! 

Here's some ideas of how to roll different parts to get you started; 


Joint Mobilization

One major technique that therapists use in the clinic is using gentle and controlled force to mobilize a joint. The principal is to hold one part of the joint stable (i.e. the shin bone) and mobilize the other part against it (i.e. the femur). 

This principal can be applied as part of a home program, by using the foam roller to stabilize one part, and body movements to mobilize the other part. I commonly prescribe techniques for upper back or shoulder mobilization.

This is a bit more tricky to teach yourself though, and while it's a great home program exercise, it needs to be coached extensively before going solo! If you think foam roller mobilization would work well with your home program, ask your therapist at your next treatment!

Exercise Equipment 

A foam roller isn't always just used as a recovery tool, but can also often be used as a prop to intensify exercises! Check out these options and see if they fit into your routine. You can make up your own as well, as long as you are careful, ease into it, and have a spotter if you're trying something risky! 


Where can I get my own foam roller? 

Usually you can get a foam roller at fitness, sports equipment, or running stores. What you're looking for is the right length (long if you're using it for a lot of exercises, short if you need something to travel to the field with you!), and that it is very firm! 

If you're in the Guelph area, give me a shout, and I can hook you up with a great roller at a great price! 

Monday, 21 May 2018

A Personal Note About Mental Health

I don't usually write about my personal life in my business blog, but today I feel like it's important. As many of you know, in January my son was born. Today Finn is 4 months old! When he was born, my whole life changed, and not all in positive ways.

Before my son was born, I was active. I did field work in December when I was 8 months pregnant, walked our dog, had no problem with household tasks, and on occasion did some strength training. I worked on my balance and basic core and pelvic floor exercises to make sure I was strong enough for labour.

After Finn was born I was shocked with how much my abilities were reduced. My balance was so poor that I felt like I was falling when going up and down stairs. Lifting my son from the floor felt like a 1-rep max even though he was a tiny 6.5 pounds. Walking for 10 minutes felt like an hour of cardio. I didn’t know why I felt this terrible! I felt like I was doing something wrong.

I would sit on the sofa, for hours on end, unable to do simple housework, and I felt so anxious. I created scenarios in my mind where I would have to quickly jump up and get the baby, the dog and cat, and myself out of the house for some reason, and was frightened I wouldn’t have the strength to move quickly enough. I imagined that I would drop my son while carrying him to change his diaper. Looking back, I was feeling the textbook symptoms of post partum anxiety, and it was scary.    

Mental health is something that I have recognized in many of my patients, especially surrounding life changing injuries. Dealing with injury is a difficult time and can trigger feelings of anxiety and depression. I have worked with athletes who are having a crisis of identity as they are unable to participate in the sports that have become such a huge part of their lives. Eventually I started to recognize these feelings in myself. I was having a crisis of identity as I adjusted from being a busy, fierce, energetic and able entrepreneur, to being a mom, and I didn’t know how I would ever be able to combine those things together.

As an Athletic Therapist, it is outside of my scope of practice to assess or treat mental health, but I have learned through research and experience that there are two things that I can suggest to a patient to help them through these difficult times; Exercise and Community. I could quote a dozen studies that show that even a slight increase in exercise can positively effect mood. And a dozen more that show that having a conversation with someone, especially someone who is experiencing something similar, can do the same. I often encourage my athletes to continue exercising, incorporating modifications to protect their injury, and to continue attending team practices and events to avoid isolation.

I realized that I was at a point in my recovery that I needed to start following my own advice. But I was scared! Starting something new, especially when you are feeling vulnerable and incapacitated is terrifying. Luckily for me, the midwifes at my clinic, Family Midwifery Care of Guelph are extremely aware of the difficulties with mental health that new mom’s experience. Through the magic of social media, I learned of a group called Up and Running, a program for new moms struggling with their mental health. I joined their walking with babies group, and now every Wednesday and Friday Finn and I go for a walk, and we talk and are open about how we are dealing with our new lives.

I feel so much healthier, both of mind and of body. The community and the exercise changed my life and helped my recovery. I suppose the take home message here is two fold – don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help or join a community of others when you are hurting, and no matter what, keep moving!