If you are training or working out on the regular and aren’t yet foam rolling, it’s probably time you got started. As many athletes and gym rats have found, foam rolling is one of the best ways to increase mobility, boost recovery, and prevent injury before a workout (you can do your standard stretching regimen after the workout). The benefits are similar to that of a massage: relieving tightness in the body by applying pressure to the muscles and working on the myofascia, the web of tissue that surrounds your muscles that can get inflamed after a workout.
Most of the foam rollers you’ll find in the gym are “ground rollers” like Trigger Point’s The Grid. To roll with these, you need some floor space so that you can splay out and use your bodyweight to put pressure on the muscles. It’s effective (and, like all rolling, a bit painful), although you have to learn some yoga-like body contortions to get all your muscles. The biggest drawback for such ground rollers, though, is portability — this isn’t a piece of equipment you can bring with you on the road or to the office.
That’s where the Tiger Tail, a sort of foam-roller-on-a-stick, can fill the gap. Shaped like a rolling pin, the Tail can be used to work your muscles like a loaf of bread, putting as much pressure as you can handle without having to get down on the ground. We found the Tail got into some crevices we couldn’t reach before – between the shoulder blades, for one – and we could put more pressure on our tight hamstrings, which are a bit hard to work with the traditional foam roller. Spring Faussett, a long-time soccer player who designed the Tiger Tail also notes that if you’re injured, you might not be able to contort yourself for a ground roller: “As soon as you tear an ACL, you can’t get down on the ground,” she says. “When people go to the physical therapist, you need to stay off the ground – whether you’re super fit or not.”
But the Tiger Tail’s biggest advantage is its portability. At this year’s Wasatch Back Ragnar, a 200-mile relay race outside of Park City, Utah, we brought The Roadster, an 11.5-inch-long version of the Tail that was more popular in the support van than our giant bag of Fritos. Besides being ideal for 27-hour races, the Tiger Tail is an excellent companion to bring on vacations (and even use on the plane), or to give a quick roll while at the office, where sprawling on the ground to work sore muscles is sometimes frowned upon.