As it sounds, foam rolling is the act of using a roll made of foam and then rolling your body over it. There are different devices on the market – different types of foam, as well as smaller balls and hard plastic rollers that can be used to apply pressure to muscles rather than using your whole body weight to roll over the foam roll.
The idea is that by using different objects and techniques, you can help break up muscle tissue in a way similar to what a massage therapist does.
I had heard of this and have owned a couple foam rollers for quite sometime. I have also heard of some who do not think it is very useful for recovery (or anything else) and I have not been doing it regularly. I found that it hurt a lot but had not seen signs that it did anything.
Recently however, I have seen a pretty concrete benefit. I had a bubbling injury in my right hip flexor since my last race. It didn’t hurt to exercise and I continued doing so, but was also concerned that it would turn to something greater. I started using a foam roller at the pool after swims, and on days I did so, the pain in my hip went away. After a few more days it would return. I am convinced that more consistent rolling since then has kept the pain at bay, so I will continue the practice.
If foam rolling is new to you but something you want to try, most gyms have them if you are a member. If not, they are not too expensive. I would recommend just a basic foam roller at first, and the other more targeted products if you are interested in trying them later. There are numerous technique videos available online, though I think it is fairly instinctual – work on the areas that hurt. Don’t do it too long, get into the area and then get out. (Remembering that I am not an expert and just speaking from experience; and prudently I should probably say that you should contact a physician before you begin foam rolling).