By Kelsey Cannon
You’ve probably been told to foam roll right before your workout because the process preps your body by increasing muscle activation and blood flow. (In fact, you may have read that on this site.)
And while that’s true, a pre-workout rolling session may actually hinder your workout more than help it, says Kelly Starrett, P.T., author of Becoming a Supple Leopard and founder of the popular site MobilityWOD.com.
The reason: “Foam rolling ‘turns on’ your parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for helping you unwind and recover,” he says.
It has a relaxing effect—and that’s the last thing you want right before you plan to crush a tough workout. You need to get jacked up, not calmed down.
Instead of foam rolling ahead of time, you can reap the same muscle-activating benefits through a 3-Move Dynamic Warmup without sending your body into a tranquil state. Then foam roll immediately after your workout to help your body begin its recovery process, says Starrett.
But we know what often happens: By the time you finish your last rep, you need to hit the shower.
So try this instead: Make it part of your bedtime routine. Take 10 to 15 minutes to roll as you’re winding down for bed, says Starrett.
Consider it a bedtime massage. You can keep a roller by the couch or next to your nightstand, and then roll as you watch the last few minutes of a television show or before you get under the sheets.
This is the perfect time to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system, says Starrett, because you’ll help your muscles recover, reduce tightness that built up throughout the day, and help your body and mind fall asleep faster.