We all learn, eventually, that touring life can be quite rough on the ol’ muscles, joints and of course the back. Let’s face it – a long day on your feet, flanked by a load in and load out – can do a number on the body. Not to mention the negative effects that bus bunks can contribute to our overall stiffness and mobility. Add hours of sitting in cramped airports and planes, and you’ve got yourself one weary traveler. Over time, you almost stop noticing the incredible tightness of your entire body and accept this physical limbo as your norm… almost.
Getting a massage every other day is a great tool for releasing all the tension, soreness and “junk” that builds up inside our muscles. For those of us who don’t have access to that luxury, you can still get the benefits of a massage by self-myofascial release (SMR).
A foam roller (fig.1a) will allow you to practice SMR using your own body weight and pressure. They are lightweight and come in a variety of sizes, textures and firmness – oh and yes, they can fit in your suitcase. Ok, so let’s say you just absolutely do not have any room left for a foam roller in your luggage amongst all the strategically-packed necessities you hold dear. There is another simple way to get similar benefits: a regular ‘ol tennis ball. I would recommend carrying both, if you can, for working out smaller muscle knots and areas more difficult to pin point with the roller. A tennis ball or a lacrosse ball can work miracles on the body.
Here are a few examples to help you get started on your journey to relief -from the road.
Start by lying on your stomach and placing the foam roller between the floor and your quads(fig.1b). Slowly rotate your thighs left to right as far as you can. Keeping your chest on the floor, relax as much as you can. You will feel the areas or knots of increased tension. Stay on those spots for a minute with slow movements, allowing gravity to do the work. Slowly roll out your muscles, making at least three passes and focusing on the problem areas (you will know them as they will hurt a little when you apply pressure).
You can also use the tennis/lacrosse ball for the above, as well as several other exercises. Try standing at a wall and placing the ball in between the wall and the area of muscles you want to massage out, such as your back (fig.2), shoulders or chest. You can also sit down on a chair and place the ball under the back of your leg (fig.3). Lean toward the leg that the ball is under and press down with your hands. Be sure to always breathe when doing any type of stretching, exercise or SMR. Breathe into the tension and out of the release.
My personal favorite exercise is for tired feet. Place the ball under your foot while standing (fig.4). Put your weight on the ball and slowly roll it around with your foot.
The road is tough, so be kind to yourself. Spend 5 to 10 minutes once or twice a day on your tight muscles, and you will find your body will have less tension and more energy.
Let us know your favorite on-the-road stretches in the comments below.