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Feel great, look better and recover faster for under $15

Monday - 8/5/2013, 7:58am  ET

Foamroller.jpg
Foam rollers are tools commonly used by physical therapists and trainers. They cost an estimated $10-$15 and help massage targeted areas of the body and increase blood flow in stiff muscles. (Courtesy Josef Brandenburg)

Josef Brandenburg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - How would you like to reduce your risk for injury, get rid of aches and pains and have more effective workouts? There's a simple solution.

You could get a massage before every workout -- or you could work with a foam roller.

Foam rollers are tools commonly used by physical therapists and trainers. They cost an estimated $10-$15 and help massage targeted areas of the body and increase blood flow in stiff muscles.

Massaging with foam rollers helps everything from sports injuries to more routine body stiffness.

How to Use a Foam Roller

For the best results, you don't need to set aside a ton of time for foam rolling. Working with a foam roller for five to eight minutes, most days of the week, works best.

To use your roller, find the "hot spots" of tension in your body. These are the areas that feel the worst.

Make small and focused rolling movements over the "hot spot" until that area feels more relaxed. If that area has a tension level of 10 before you begin the foam rolling, try to decrease that level to a six or seven. This should take approximately 20-30 seconds.

Working each area of tension should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. If you find the discomfort is too much to handle, change positions to put less pressure on that spot, or try a softer roller.

After 20-30 seconds on a spot, move along and repeat the steps on the other side of your body.

A Five Minute Foam Roll

If you only have five minutes, here is a good way to invest that time.

  • Lower leg: Shoes, especially those with heels and narrow toe boxes, can really tighten up your lower leg and foot. Stiff ankles usually mean achy knees. Using a foam roller to loosen up your calves and lower leg can help to alleviate ankle and knee pain.

  • Quads: Sitting puts your quadriceps in a short position that can make your core loose and put a lot of stress on your knees. When using the foam roller on the top of your legs, make sure you roll all the way to the front of your hip.

  • Glutes: Sitting makes this area tight, and stiff hips can often make your lower back hurt. Working on your glutes with a foam roller will help to ease muscle discomfort in this area.

  • Upper back: This usually just feels really good after a long day of hunching over your desk. Roll your upper back on top of the foam roller.

  • Arm pits: It may sound strange, but arm pits are an area of convergence, or a place where many muscles come together. Rolling here will help many different areas of the body.

If you want a bonus, try a golf or lacrosse ball on the sole of your foot. This simple trick feels amazing and it loosens up so many other things in the process.

And while foam rolling and self-massage are wonderful, powerful tools, they are not a substitute for proper medical care. If soreness and injuries persist, contact a doctor.

Editor's Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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