Inflexible is a word that almost always has negative connotations. For those things that we don’t want to be flexible—the bottom bracket of a bicycle, for instance—we typically use positively-charged words like “strong” or “resilient” instead of inflexible. As a cyclist I don’t want to be inflexible in the physical sense or in my approach to training, and during the last seven days I have come to appreciate a training tool that I would have mocked not long ago.
foam roller, the correct use of which is supposed to ensure greater flexibility, to improve blood flow and to relieve sore muscles. A lot of cyclists tout the benefits of massage. At the highest levels of the sport, there are team assistants whose entire careers are based on their ability to rub, press or knead the discomfort from the riders’ muscles. At my level of the sport? Well, sometimes there are massage services for hire at the end of organized bike tours, but I have never availed myself of them. I don’t often experience soreness—I exercise too frequently for that to happen—but I do get tight and inflexible. Getting an occasional massage would be nice but I’m not about to pay for it. For around $30, a good foam roller is an inexpensive option … perhaps not as therapeutic as a professionally-administered rubdown, but more cost- and time-effective.
I have used my foam roller every day since I bought it last Friday and so far, so good. I can’t say that I’ve gained any flexibility yet, but the roller was effective against a couple of kinks in my legs. Spots that hurt when I first applied the foam roller don’t hurt anymore. Is there better proof than that? As with any tool, there are techniques that one must learn to ensure maximum effectiveness. I’m still learning but already I’m convinced that the roller will be especially useful when I get back into the high mileage months of my cycling season.