Apr. 15. 2015
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

You’ve seen me post about it before, but I adore foam rolling, and many of you have asked…what is foam rolling? A legit question since it sounds like the weirdest thing, but I promise if you’re as active as me, or sit for long periods of time working, or simply have tense muscles you’ll LOVE this technique. Foam rolling is all about releasing tense muscle fibers creating more flexibility, length in your muscles, relieve tension, and can help improve lymph, circulation and combat cellulite! I enjoy doing this most before a workout or winding down at night when I do my 15 minute yoga session- turn on some tunes and get rollin’

get rollin’

An introduction to foam rolling as written by my dear friend, personal trainer, warrior for women and positive body image, and ICU nurse Sarah Vance. “What is myofascial release? The body is made of connective tissue around muscles and bones. Part of the connective tissue is fascia. The fascia can become irritated or ‘knotted up’ through many different things, however for us we will stick with training. Myofascial release is specifically talking about the muscles that the fascia are involved with, and how to relax and smooth out those knotted up areas.

Foam rolling is very similar to what a deep tissue massage can provide to your muscles and body. As mentioned it helps aid in releasing knots, as well as improve range of motion for a short period of time. It can decrease the perception of muscle stiffness and soreness that occurs after training within those 48 hours when we develop delayed muscle onset soreness. It has also been said to aid in recovery by working on the parasympathetic nervous system, but this is still undergoing some research. Some studies have shown that it can aid in flexibility when it is programmed with training cycles over a long course of time. However, one of the best benefits of foam rolling is that it is cheaper than a deep tissue massage, and you can do it on a more regular basis in the comfort of your own home.


Foam rolling doesn’t have to be a dedicated day, it only requires a 5-15 minutes prior to training to increase flexibility. This is can be incorporated in your warm up session to help increase blood flow to that area being trained. Or you can utilize it after training to decrease muscle soreness which may aid in recovery (when paired with proper nutrition, sleep, and stretching). You only need to focus on those areas that are bothering you, or the area that is going to be trained that day.

Try it out!

  • You will need a foam roller or other rolling device, here are my favorites: here and here. Some are made of foam that are softer, and some are harder, such as a PVC pipe.
  • Always start with the softer version before moving to something harder until your body gets used to it. You can also use lacrosse/tennis ball for really deep knots or hard to reach spots (I prefer to use lacrosse ball on my traps and piriformis).
  • You start be rolling slowly down the length of the muscle while putting your bodyweight on the foam and once you find a sensitive spot you stop and stay there for about 30 -45 seconds. 
  • Many people make the mistake of rolling around even harder and digging around on a knotted up spot, but this can actually lead to the area becoming more inflamed. The best thing is to sit on the sore knotted up area with pressure and attempt to flex and extend the muscle that the area is in. 


It should be noted that foam rolling can be uncomfortable at times similar to a deep stretch.  You can foam roll just about any muscle, but try to avoid the spine/bony areas directly. A good total body sequence is to  roll the glutes-> hamstrings-> calves -> quads. From there you can move onto your upper back and lats. This should be around 15 minutes total, more if you need to spend time on a sensitive spot. As I mentioned above, the most important thing for training is a proper warm up period. As far as recovery there are many other more important factors that contribute to your recovery process which include: Sleep, nutrition, and stretching. Foam rolling is just another way to stay in tip top training shape.”

I hope you all enjoyed this informative and super helpful guide on how to foam roll by Sarah, she’s doing really amazing things empowering women in fitness. I find myself doing this most days after training and am much more flexible because of it! Have you ever tried foam rolling before?

xx McKel