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No Pain, No Gain

Sometimes, self-care hurts.

The idea of self care as a feel-good-only practice does more harm than good. Sometimes, taking care of ourselves doesn’t always feel good in the moment. Just about everyone can relate to this when it comes to exercise (no one likes the feeling of their heart pumping at 170 beats per minute and their lungs screaming for oxygen), but we all know that getting in great shape is going to result in some discomfort along the way.

The same holds true for body maintenance and recovery: Correcting body misalignments and loosening up deep knots often means applying an uncomfortable amount of pressure, but with consistent, purposeful practice we start to see improvement. In the long run, everything we do for our bodies can have both direct and indirect benefits. Hitting the gym, for instance, boosts your physical fitness, and it also is proven to have measurable benefits for mental and emotional health.

So, with this in mind, here’s how a good foam rolling routine can support whole-body health and wellness – even if it hurts a little.

It builds routine.

When you roll regularly at the same time each day, you’re building a habit—a valuable way to lock in self care. It takes 21 days to build a habit, and once something is a habit, you no longer feel like you have to make time for it, or exert willpower to get it done. The reason self-care tasks can feel like a drag is because we’re relying on our finite reserve of discipline to complete them—unless they just become a part of our routine. Then, they require no discipline, and become easy peasy.

Keeps you moving.

Our muscles are covered in a connective tissue called fascia, which functions as sort of a shrink wrap that both keeps everything in place and determines how mobile we are. After extreme exertion, or after long periods of inactivity, our fascia can become “sticky” (creating adhesions between it and our muscles) and make us feel tight, stiff, or sore.

Foam rolling essentially tells your muscle/fascia to chill out and loosen up, allowing your muscles and joints to move more freely and painlessly. And when you can move without pain, things that suddenly felt impossible start to feel within reach.

Heals your body, inside and out.

Foam rolling has both physical and psychological benefits. It not only boosts circulation, increasing healing and energy levels, but it can also have a measurable impact on your mental and emotional health.

When you roll your muscles, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, the part of our nervous system that makes us feel calm, relaxed, and helps boost our natural recovery process. There’s also some anecdotal evidence suggesting that foam rolling can even lower your cortisol levels, which decreases stress and helps keep major functions like metabolism working at top capacity.

Keeps you resilient.

Alongside mental and emotional resilience, foam rolling can also help reduce your risk of physical injury. When your muscles stay limber, you’re less likely to strain or injure yourself. Foam rolling has also been shown to reduce likelihood of muscle soreness, especially post-workout, meaning you won’t have to put your workout routine on pause because you hit it a little too hard the last time.