Foam Rollers and Travel Rollers are used to give soft tissue massage on different parts of your body. It is used for myofascial release, massaging of the IT band, quads, upper and lower back, shoulders, armpits, hamstrings, calves, feet, glutes, groin and neck. It can be done prior or after a workout, as a relaxing massage before bed, or to ease sore muscles. While one can get the same results at a massage therapist, most of us can’t afford to get regular massages. Foam Rollers and Travel Rollers allow self-massage to be done at home for a one-time cost.
Disclaimer: My opinions and points of view in all of my reviews are always 100% honest. I never sugar-coat any of my reviews and I will never write a false review, regardless on whether or not a company has sent me a product or if I have purchased it with my own money. Enjoy!
My Venture Into the Land of Health & Foam Rollers
(Feel free to skip over this passage – I just thought I’d give some background info on how I came to use foam rollers and the Travel Roller)
When I was in high school, I always dreaded gym class. I was never athletic and I never took part in any teams or gymnastics. During my first year of university, I ate horribly (Poutine anyone?) and gained not only the “Freshman 15″, but 10 extra to go on top of that. When I finished my first year of university, I realized that I wasn’t very happy with my body and the weight I had gained from all those nasty foods, and I didn’t enjoy being out of shape, especially since I had discovered that I was falling more and more in love with belly dancing, and I just wasn’t strong enough to sustain certain movements. I joined a Curves gym and started taking traditional belly dance classes once a week and began my slow journey to greater health. Fast forward to the new school year: I transferred to a new university. I started meeting people who introduced me to certain foods that I had never heard of before (The first one being Lychees, I believe). I bought some tribal belly dance dvds so I could continue my practice, and I tried to work out in my teeny little dorm room. That was four years ago, and every year I have become more and more involved with nutrition and fitness. Any-wayyyy, this all had a point, I promise! Point being: Once fitness and dance became a regular part of my day-to-day, I started to learn more and more about my body. In the days when I did no exercise, my body was just one whole entity/globule (ew), and it either felt good or didn’t. With regular exercise and more awareness of my body, If I felt a certain sensation, I could know right away that my glutes were sore from dance, or my knee was sore from yoga and I could then proceed accordingly with what I could do to aid the problem.
Hello Foam Roller!
About a year ago, I had been regularly practicing belly dance for about 5-6 hours a week, and my left knee (Which I had known to be weak for a couple of years prior) was really starting to give me problems, to the point where I’d almost be crying near the end of the class. Yoga became unpleasant, and I wasn’t able to intensify my work outs for fear of doing damage to my already gimpy knee. It was a huge bummer, to say the least. I decided to bite the bullet and dish out the money to see a Chiropractor. I went for a couple of sessions (really all I could afford, but well worth it). The first time she did an assessment and did some deep massage on my legs (holy mother, my IT band HURT!) but my knee felt so much better afterwards. She did some acupuncture during my second session, which was my first and only time doing it, and it made my knee feel like it was in heaven! She also recommended that I purchase a foam roller, which I had never heard of before. I grimaced as I purchased the long blue foam roller – It was more expensive than I had expected, especially for a poor student. I believe it was $39.99, or some cute number to make you forget you are actually spending $40.00. I carried it awkwardly back home in the rain and then began using it daily. I felt all warm and fuzzy after I used it, and definitely felt like my muscles were more relaxed and less prone to pain and injury. If you haven’t used one before, be aware that some areas will hurt and feel unpleasant as you are doing them. It is important to slowly breath through it – don’t do short gasping breaths. Go at your own pace and breaaaaathhhe. Most of my body just feels good while stretching/massaging it. It’s really only my IT band that hurts, but it’s much better and with regular rolling, areas will start to hurt less. Don’t let it put you off…you will feel divine after doing it. Don’t push it, however…do as Tony Horton says, “Do your best and forget the rest!”
Oh…Foam Roller, why are you so LARGE!
I soon discovered an unfortunate side to my lovely foam roller. It is huge. I had to move out of my apartment and fly to another province, but I didn’t want to part with my roller, so I mailed it to my new location and the shipping was almost as much as I originally paid for the darn thing. It came to about $30. Even if the shipping wasn’t that much, it is still a pain to have to mail it. Even just travelling with it to a dance or fitness class isn’t too ideal either…or fitting it into a small apartment. Fast forward a few months later to when I finally discovered something that solved my roller problems…
Discovery of the Travel Roller!
I was doing some research on the internet for some additional exercises and I came across the Travel Roller. The title peaked my interest and I soon discovered that it was like a regular foam roller, but it was travel-sized! This was very exciting to me. It is designed a little differently than a regular foam roller. It has a layer of foam (containing no weird chemicals and it is PVC, latex and rubber free), which wraps around a stiff inner core. The core is hollow and allows storage for a hand towel, mp3 player, phone, or the Travel Roller’s acupressure balls (or anything else you can fit in it, really!). It comes with a one year guarantee and is said to not warp over time. I find that the regular foam rollers can tend to do this with prolonged use. My large blue roller is just starting to have indents in it, but I think that is due to mailing it across Canada. The travel roller can fit easily inside of a gym bag, backpack, suitcase, tote bag – you name it! It is also less awkward to use than a long roller, and requires less floor space. Basically, I kind of fell in love when I first used it. It is a little harder than my foam roller, but because I have experience with rolling, it wasn’t a problem and it was easy to get used to it. Whether one uses a regular larger foam roller or Travel Roller, it is important to listen to your body and use with care, especially around areas such as your neck and lower back. I recommend seeing a Chiropractor or physiotherapist before you use a foam roller, or if you have any areas of your body that are giving you problems.
How to do you use a Travel Roller?
Travel Rollers work with your bodyweight. You apply your bodyweight against the foam roller and gently roll across different areas of your body in order to relieve tightness and knots. (Check out the end of this post for links to diagrams and photos of different roller exercises). You can increase the pressure depending on how much bodyweight you place on the roller. I suggest giving yourself a bit of space on the floor and to use a yoga mat or carpet, and to tie your hair up and not wear really baggy clothes, as your hair and clothing can get rolled around the roller as you are using it.
When you are first starting out with your roller, take it easy, especially if you have very tight areas of your body and/or if you haven’t ever done massage before. Rolling can give varying levels of sensation. Some areas will feel good as you roll over them and others will be quite painful or intense. You know your body, so don’t push it if the sensation becomes too much for you. If you have any doubts, please consult your chiropractor or physiotherapist or trainer who is knowledgeable in tissue massage.
NOTE: If you currently do not exercise and/or do not have much muscle density, I would try a softer roller to start off with. Travel Rollers are aimed towards people who are already physically active, and many professional athletes opt to use these as they are dense and will not warp like some softer density rollers.
I’ve been rolling prior to working out as part of my warm up and to increase blood circulation and flow, as well as afterwards. Sometimes I do it shortly before bed as it helps me to relax and to help DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Travel Roller vs. Massage
Of course it’d be great if you could afford a massage therapist to come into your home and give you daily/weekly massages, but that is just not practical for most of us. Massage done by the hands of a professional is going to be better in most cases than rolling, but it is not feasible or practical. Travel Rollers are the affordable way to give yourself a massage and to look after your body, and you can take them anywhere with you – To work, in hotels, on trips, to gyms. Can’t really get any easier than that. Of course, if I could afford to get a professional massage, i’d probably opt for that every now and again, but I certainly appreciate being able to do self-massage at home. Most massages are going to cost you more than $44.95 (the cost of a Travel Roller), so your roller will pay for itself very quickly.
Price of the Travel Roller compared to Regular Foam Rollers
- Travel Roller = $44.95 (Comes in 3 Colours = Blue, Purple & Black)
- Regular Foam Roller = $20-$40
- Travel Roller 3 Variable Density Acupressure Balls = $29.95
- Travel Roller Complete Kit (Travel Roller, 3 variable density Acupressure Balls, 94 minute DVD + Laminated Exercise Poster) = $79.95
While the Travel Roller is more expensive than most foam rollers, think about the advantages and convenience of its size and then determine whether or not you want to save $10-$20 by getting a larger one. Either way, you are going to be saving loads of money by not having to pay someone each time you want to massage parts of your body. The Travel Roller is about as small as a roller can get before it becomes too small, and it is light. The hollow compartment is a nice bonus too. If you don’t mind the larger size, or if you don’t want your roller to be as hard (Travel Rollers are a bit harder), then I suggest trying out a regular foam roller if you can get your hands on one, or start off with a foam roller and then if it becomes a regular part of your health practice, it might be a good investment to get a Travel Roller, so you can always take it with you on the go, or just keep it near your work out area without it being a large intrusive pool noodle on steroids.
My Experience with Rolling
While I can not attribute all of my knee improvements to rolling, it has definitely helped to maintain my knee feeling 99% better than it did before I saw a chiropractor and learned how to look after my knee more efficiently. If you are unsure as to whether or not it is right for you, talk to a professional – especially if you have any injuries. You do NOT want to risk making them worse. Aside from my dreaded dagnabbit IT band, rolling with my Travel Rolling is very enjoyable. I put on some nice music and get out my yoga mat and spend about 10-15 minutes a day. Sometimes I don’t even do it for that long, but it still makes a difference. Travel Roller has a 30 Day Return Policy, so you can return it if need be.
Pros & Cons of the Travel Roller
- Travel-sized – Can easily fit into bags/luggage
- Hollow Compartment can fit small items inside
- Very securely made – Does not warp and has a one year warranty
- Made without any toxic glues or materials
- Economic alternative to professional massage
- May be too hard for beginners/people starting out with rollers and exercise
- On the pricier side (It is well made and a convenient size, so choose what most matters to you)
- The DVD leaves something to be desired – It could be cleaned up a bit in terms of production and editing. The product/packaging of the Travel Roller is so sleek that I think it would be beneficial to redo the DVD and record footage using an HD camera. While it provides useful information, I would only suggest getting the DVD if you are purchasing the Travel Roller Complete Kit, since it already comes with it. However, this is not part of the actual Travel Roller, so it doesn’t take anything away from it! And it is worth taking a look at if you get it.
Thank you Arysta and Adam for the lovely Travel Roller – It’s definitely a winner and now a part of my regular fitness routine!
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“I make an effort to exercise every day, and 10 minutes on one of these portable foam rollers – which break down inter-cellular adhesions in muscles, as well as deliver a whooping self-massage – leave me feeling as refreshed as an hour-long professional massage. Also, a quick roll is magically rejuvenating after a long flight, or before hopping into bed.” – Bruce Kirkby, Globe in Mail -Adventure Photographer
- Travel Roller Website – Travel Roller Facebook – Travel Roller Youtube – Travel Roller Twitter
- Foam Roller Exercises with Diagrams I
- Foam Roller Exercises with Diagrams II
- Bodybuilding.com Foam Roller Exercises with Photos
- Info on Myofascial Release