Athletes place an immense amount of strain on their muscles and tendons especially as they increase their training and prepare for competition. Unfortunately, a common by-product of the increased activity is overuse injuries that can quickly sideline any athlete. This can easily be prevented by incorporating a form of self-massage, known as myofascial release, into the athletes training regimen.
Myofasical release is an easy, very effective way to loosen tight muscles and increase recovery time while keeping injuries at bay. This can easily be done using tennis balls or professionally made products by companies such as Rad Roller or Yoga Tune Up. When doing myofasical, try to avoid rolling directly over bone, swollen tissue or any areas that create pain of any kind. Spend as much time as you would like in the exercises below remembering to keep your focus on a steady breath. This is key. The more you can allow yourself to relax while doing these exercises, the more efficient they will be.
Foot: This can be done standing or sitting in a chair. Place the ball directly under your foot. Apply comfortable pressure and slowly roll the ball all around the bottom of the foot. Pay particular attention to any areas that feel especially tight specifically the inner and outer arches.
Hamstrings: From seated with legs extended, place the ball underneath your thigh. Press both hands into the ground to lift your hips (use blocks if needed) so you can roll the ball up and down the length of the hamstrings. Start at the sitting bones and work your down towards the knee.
Hips: Lie on your back and bend your knees placing your feet onto the ground. Slide the balls under your hips so that they are right on the meaty portion of your glutes. Pick your left foot up and cross your ankle over your right thigh (if this feels like too much, keep both feet on the ground). To intensify the stretch, take both knees over to the right a few inches.
IT Band: Lie on your right side with the leg extended sending the left leg in front of you with the foot planted for support. Slide a ball underneath your right thigh and rest your right forearm on the ground. Take a moment allowing the body to relax over the ball as you take a few deep breaths. Slowly begin to slide the body up and down over the ball starting from the top of the pelvis working your way down to just above the knee. If there is a particular area where you would like to spend some extra time, you can lower your upper body down onto the ground.
Back: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. Starting at the lower back, place two balls underneath your back on either side of your spine. Stay for a minute or so and then move the balls up about two inches, staying here for another minute and then moving up another two inches. Continue this up the spine and if you would like, you can work your way back down again.
After you have completed the exercises above, spend some time lying flat on your back in savasana (corpse pose). Allow the body to be completely relaxed here and spend a few moments focusing on your breath. Take about 20-30 slow, controlled breaths before slowly making your way back up.