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How The Foam Roller Workout Helped Me Get My Life Back

It started with tightness in my hip flexors that no amount of stretching could relieve. I limited my running and cardio workouts, did more yoga, took more rest days and still, I couldn't find relief from this darned tightness.

Fast-forward two months. Now, my lower back was talking to me; stiff in the mornings and taking it's good old' time loosening up. Next were the hamstrings they were so reluctant to loosen up that I could feel them when I bent over to tie my sneakers. I especially felt this in the mornings. This pushed me over the edge.

I like to think I've always been athletic, at least throughout my adulthood. I am passionate about anything that breaks a sweat. I adore running and biking. I've taught spinning classes since spinning began. I've completed triathlons and half-marathons, all for kicks, and mostly with no foundation of training. I just woke up and felt like running a road race so off I went.

Or at least I used to. I have no patience for these nagging physical limitations. I'm only 45 years old, for criminy sakes (and 45 is the new 29, right?)

My husband (who I met at a 5K road race by the way) would also want me to mention that my personality tightened as well as my hamstrings. In the trickle-down theory, if I cannot do my regular daily workouts, everyone in my family suffers.

I do believe in divine intervention though and about this time I discovered the foam roller exercises through a fabulous New York City teacher, Susan Hitzmann, owner of Longevity Fitness, Inc. She offers a program called M.E.L.T., which stands for Myofascial Energetic Length Technique.

I coincidentally ended up in one of her many workshops about fascia and what to do about it. She offers tools (many on the foam roller) to add length and to therefore relieve muscular discomfort. Turns out that it wasn't just my muscles that were tight but the overlying and surrounding sheath of fascia that were giving me problems.

What's fascia? Think of it like a wet suit that fits snugly over your muscles, like a web or a net. Some people have more than others.

She showed us techniques of rolling on a foam roller that rehydrates those fascial sheaths of tightness, eliciting and immediate sense of length, space and release. Man! It was a profound release too; like unbuttoning your jeans after a big meal.

I was totally hooked after one workshop. I got myself a foam roller, which looks like a yoga mat rolled up, only bigger and made of foam.

I started rolling at home. In just a few minutes, my muscles released. All it took was a few passes up and down my thighs to feel my hips let go. With as little as five minutes a day, three or four days a week, I noticed that my hamstrings released their stranglehold. My lower back didn't wake me up in the morning anymore. I kept rolling and just focused on any areas that felt tight. Then I would pick a few other areas on my body, depending on what felt needed.

For example, my side hip and butt didn't feel tight when I moved around all day but when I rolled up and down my side hip-YOWL! There was tightness lurking that I didn't even know was there until I used my super-duper rolling pin of a foam roller on the dough of my thighs.

Over the next year, I continued to attend workshops and classes worth the phenomenally talented Ms. Hitzmann. I remembered her from her days as an aerobics teachers, famous for making the Crunch Boot Camp Video. Her story was similar to mine. After experiencing limiting soreness that no amount of stretching could relieve, she set out on her own to find some answers. After years of research and diligent experimenting with herself as the guinea pig, she developed this foam roller program, among other fascial release techniques.

This tremendous fitness development is not just for baby boomers, but especially for what I call "baby zoomers"; aging jocks who are not willing to give up or even modify their fitness regime because of stiffness or increasing lack of flexibility.

It is important to notice how you feel BEFORE you roll. Compare this with how you feel afterwards. My hunch is that you will sense that something has released.

My muscles melted, which loosened up my lower back, which helped me sleep better. In turn, I woke up feeling not only more rested, but more flexible. I was able to resume my daily cardio and strength training routine. In the trickle-down theory, this vastly improved my daily moods. I was nicer to my husband and kids, and in essence, I got my life back.

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About The Author: Penny Love Hoff, 20 year fitness professional . is the author of the revolutionary CD workout program"Does My Marriage Make Me Look Fat?", an eight week fitness program for couples to radically change your body and reawaken your relationship.You can find her at

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