“Massage creates a relaxation response in the body through a complex series of chemical, hormonal, and electrical changes resulting in the ability to move better,” Roeser tells Bustle.
It also benefits the muscle tissue directly in two ways: via mechanical movement and fluid movement. “Mechanical movement is simply the smashing, stretching, or releasing of fascia and muscle layers to allow for improved mobility,” says Roeser. “This is probably the concept most of us are familiar with.” Then there’s fluid movement, aka the idea that foam rolling may help improve blood flow, lymphatic return, and the diffusion of fluid and nutrients through pressure and movement, he adds. In short, it’s a great addition to a workout routine. But the question remains: When exactly should you do it?
According to Roeser, when you foam roll depends on your goals and personal preference. You might, for instance, find that you prefer to roll before a workout as a way to warm up your muscles. In that case, he suggests spending five to 10 minutes rolling major muscle groups that feel tight to prepare your body for the activity you’re about to perform. Going for a run? Focus on your hamstrings, calves, and glutes so that you’re ready to go."