Copied with permission http://thebodymechanic.com.au
The answer, as always, will depend on the individual. If you have a tried and tested self-management routine that is working for you, and you are injury-free and performing at a level you are happy with – then don’t change anything. The old cliche “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” has stood the test of time for good reason.
If, however, you are one of the many people who are not sure whether to stretch or foam roll then read on . . .
Some people are flexible (have a good range of movement in their joints) and find it difficult to feel much of an effect or benefit from stretching. These same people may still have muscles which feel tight and achey. This is where the foam roller can be very helpful. Think of it like self massage. You can reduce some of the tension and trigger points in muscles and the fascia surrounding them by massaging them.
Other people are very restricted in their joints (typically the hips and ankles in runners and cyclists). These people usually benefit from a combination of stretching and foam rolling.
The most important thing is consistency – you need to try and create a regular and sustainable habit of doing some stretching and/or rolling most days of the week. 5 minutes here and there (e.g. in front of the TV in the evening) can be much more beneficial than a one hour Yoga class once a week.
Our bodies get tight when we sit at work all day, not only when we run and ride. So think of your stretching and rolling routine as a way of reversing the side-effects of sitting, rather than reversing the side-effects of your training sessions.
Two areas of the body which are commonly tight in runners and cyclists and seem to benefit from foam rolling are the ITBs (outside of your thigh) and your calf muscles.
Watch this video to make sure you are using your roller to best effect.