You know that foam roller that’s just collecting dust in the corner of your bedroom? You know, the one that you bought for a reason? Maybe it was to help loosen tight hips, work out those tight muscles in your butt, or maybe you just bought it because someone told you foam rollers are helpful.

No matter why you bought it, it’s only going to help if you get down on it every once in a while. And the only way you’ll get down on it is if you know why you’re doing it and how it’s going to help you.

For me it’s kind of like hydration… you might think you’re doing it enough, but more is probably better and there is almost zero chance that you’ll do it too much. Foam rollers are a very important piece of equipment that can help you get the most out of your workout routine.

Here are some of the main reasons why foam rollers should be a regular part of your workout routine:

Self myo-fascial release (self-massage) is a technique that breaks up scar and connective tissue created during workouts. This creates “looser” muscles which can lead to improved performance, faster recovery and a happier you.

By “sitting” on a tight or tender spot when foam rolling, you’re allowing the roller to break apart tissues that would otherwise be stuck together. This allows blood into that “knot” which speeds up the recovery process and immediately improves mobility. Think of a skilled massage therapist’s fingers pressing heavily into a knot during a deep tissue massage… you could have that feeling of sweet relief everyday — for a fraction of the price!

That’s the gist of it, it’s basically a cheap massage. As an added bonus, it won’t grab your booty five minutes into saying: “let me give you a back rub after your long day at work, hun.”

Here are a few easy rules for using your foam roller:

Don’t roll over joints
Don’t roll directly on your IT band (if you have questions about this, ask one of your trainers)
Don’t roll your lower back. Those vertebrae are meant for stability and shouldn’t be messed with. Try a lacrosse or tennis ball on the side of the spine that is tight, instead.

Do sit on sensitive spots (20-30 sec) until they release. You’ll know you’re done once you’re not making that twitchy, one eye closed, winky pain face. You can do this five to ten times over each trigger point.
Do adjust the pressure you’re putting on the roller as to not cause excessive pain. This isn’t an exercise in pain tolerance.
Do roll slowly and take your time. Just like it takes time to build a better physique, improving mobility issues can’t be rushed. Try to stick to no more than one inch per second.

I have a general rule when it comes to incorporating anything new into your workout routine: give it a serious shot for two weeks. Rolling might be the best experience of your life. It also may be the thing that takes you to the next level.

Move stronger. Move faster. RECOVER smarter.