Foam rollers—you’ve seen them at the gym, loitering around the ab mats. They seem innocent enough, so why does everyone using them look like they’re in major pain?

Also known as a myofascial release, foam rollers loosen up tight muscles, relieve soreness and improve muscle recovery. Our bodies are covered in fascia—it’s like a band of connective tissue and collagen that holds all our muscles together. Located just under our skin, fascia keeps our muscles and internal organs where they’re supposed to be.

Like everything else in our bodies, fascia can be overtrained and tight, which leads to soreness and inflexibility. To keep muscles loose and blood flowing, it’s important to incorporate a myofascial release into your daily workout routine.

Create a myofascial release by dragging force across your soft tissues for a long period of time. Yes, it’s uncomfortable—especially when you dig into those areas that are constantly moving but rarely given time to recuperate.

Before you label foam rolling as a torture device, here’s a list of reasons why you should do it.

Removes lactic acid

After a hard workout, your joints and muscles might be sore due to a buildup of lactic acid. Foam rolling a tough workout will speed up recovery time by moving blood and nutrients to your injured areas. With blood circulating and fresh nutrients attending to your depleted areas, you’ll notice far less soreness the next day.

Increases motion range

Self-massage will help improve your range of motion because it is stretching and elongating muscles to remove restriction and tightness. With a wider range of motion, workouts are more effective, require less effort and will increase your stamina.

Reduces stress

High levels of stress release cortisol, a hormone which causes problems like disrupted sleep and weight gain. Even though stress tends to surface with a busy schedule, it can put an unnecessary strain on us. Recent studies have shown that myofascial release can lower cortisol—by foam rolling daily, you might find yourself more relaxed.

Improves results

Without fatigue, lactic acid and soreness, it’s far easier to stay healthy, exercise more frequently and ultimately see faster results.

Foam rolling is to fitness as flossing is to dental health; while it can be tedious and painful, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Now that you know the importance of foam rolling for your body and mind, check out these tips for a better myofascial release on the mats.

Slow your roll

Even though it might be uncomfortable to target those achy muscles, rolling quickly won’t help break up the adhesions. Roll slowly, consistently and allow your fascia to loosen up and recover.

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Even if you have spots that are particularly sore, try not to focus too much time targeting them directly. Digging into achy spots alone might irritate your body or even damage tissue. Try to elongate your rolling to cover a larger region of the body to get the blood flowing.

Do be soft

The more firm the roller, the more painful the session. Your body will build a tolerance to harder foam rollers over time, but beginners should stick to softer ones. While the results won’t be as immediate, they also won’t cause as much pain or bruise your body.

Breath it out

When foam rolling, make sure you keep your breathing even and your body relaxed. Muscles tense up with pain, so it’s important to keep our bodies loose and our breathing steady during the release. If your muscles are tense when foam rolling, it will be difficult to determine where the pain is coming from. This is because the whole muscle will feel tight and strained in the process.