Techniques for Effective Self-Care

Overtraining can be the downside of an enthusiastic start on any new fitness goals or ongoing pursuit of a passion like yoga. Jill Miller is familiar with the latter, having over-trained as a yogi. While she could perform the most challenging poses, it was incredibly painful to get out of bed in the morning.

So Miller put years of study of anatomy and movement to work in literally putting her own body back together, and created the Roll Model method of self-myofascial release using therapy balls of various sizes. Now she is at the forefront of a movement linking the worlds of fitness, massage, and pain management in one of the hottest trends the American College of Exercise has called out for 2016. Her “Treat While You Train™” group fitness program that’s rolling out exclusively at 24 Hour Fitness this year is based on the principle that self-care tonight equals a better workout (not to mention pain-free day) tomorrow.

She says, “Regeneration is crucial to balance training. Treat While You Train came out of a need I saw because there didn’t seem to be a lot of room for recovery in the context of training. When basic human movements cause pain or discomfort, we have to acknowledge that we’ve developed internal blind spots. There’s an opportunity to bring those tissues into play and treat areas you didn’t know were inhibiting your best performance.”

A core tenet of Treat While You Train is conscious movement. “It’s important that from within every single action, every breath, every hand gesture, every hip movement, you are fully aware of what you’re doing,” she explains. Miller emphasizes that awareness is important even as we walk, run, carry the laundry upstairs, or work out: “It’s a type of quiet listening you can do even when you’re pushing and exerting yourself to create your best physique.”


If, right about now, you’re thinking I barely have time to squeeze in a workout, never mind self-care, consider that Miller has a 21-month-old and her travel schedule adds up to several months each year. That doesn’t mean that she can always exercise in the way that she wants, but she incorporates some daily self-care to reduce the physical and mental stress of child care, travel and hours in front of the computer, and to prepare for the next day’s workout.

Miller points out that it’s not all or nothing. There are small things you can do – even while reading this article – to instantly improve your internal and external state. “Breath is a poorly understood resource that impacts every aspect of our health,” she says. “In fact, it even affects our posture. When we don’t breathe properly we tend to lean over…and that has a ripple affect that can also cloud clear thinking.”

In fact, what’s surprised Miller most since she began teaching the Roll Model method is learning from her students just how deeply self-care can heal. Miller says, “Our capacity for pain and suffering is massive and it takes a lot of will to finally decide to change that story and become a model of self-healing.”


The movements in Treat While You Train can be subtle or small, but they’re deep. Miller took the time with us to demonstrate nine important techniques that underpin self-myofascial release, plus a combination technique, to unwind your body from the rigors of training and accelerate recovery.


#1 Sustained Compression
After you place the ball, just lay still. Take lots of slow deep breaths as you relax into the sustained pressure of the therapy ball.

#2 Stripping
Maneuver your body over the therapy ball so that it tracks along the tissue’s grain or direction of pull. Think of the therapy ball’s action along your muscle tissue as similar to running a comb through your hair.

#3 Skin Rolling or Shear
Skin rolling or shear happens as the therapy ball grips the soft tissue where it’s located. You can use the ball to create skin-rolling or shear, independent of a particular therapy movement: just pivot or twist into the ball gently into the tissue. Fascial tissue permeates our bodies, and it’s beneficial to manipulate the “superficial” and deeper layers, alike.

#4 Cross-fiber
In contrast to stripping, cross-fiber manipulation results from the therapy ball tracking across the grain or direction of movement of a muscle. As you roll across the ball, you’ll feel the different segments of your muscle being pried apart by the ball. It’s one of the best techniques to stretch apart fascial tissue.

#5 Pin and Stretch
Dock the ball in the center of a muscle, then bend and straighten from the joints below that point, or above it.

#6 Contract/Relax
Place the ball and contract the muscle over it, then let it go. Each time you relax the muscle, you’ll feel the ball plunging a little deeper into more supple tissue.

#7 Pin, Spin and Mobilize
Keeping a therapy ball in place, pivot your body on top of it. The tissue in contact with the ball will twirl and gather; and when you feel a bit of a pinch, stop moving. Then take some deep breaths or slightly move your body part away from the ball’s point of contact.

#8 Ball Plow
Once you’ve placed a therapy ball or balls, move in one direction as if gently removing or lifting soft tissue away from the bone. Shift the whole tissue structure – for example, your IT band and quadriceps away from the femur – and then re-set.

#9 Ball Stack
Use multiple therapy balls like a rubber vice by placing one on either side of a muscle. You can rest in that position or do Pin and Stretch or Contract/Relax.

#10 Bonus: Plow and Pin
This technique combines Ball Plow with Sustained Compression to slowly maneuver an entire tissue structure in one direction as if clearing it away from the bone, then holding for 60 seconds until sensation of stretching disappears, and then re-setting.