While we be up in the gym just working on our fitness, we may only be witness to what's happening to the outside of our bodies. More definition and less jiggle—it's a goal the masses squeeze, pump and burn to attain. But what about the physical effects happening under our skin? Huntington Beach personal trainer Matthew Olaya spent years searching for the perfect foam roller to aid in recovery, and he never found it. That is, until he invented it. Olaya's M80 Roller is lauded as the most aggressive, durable and customizable foam roller on the market, and each one is handmade here in his HB garage.
An active child from the start, Olaya swam competitively in both high school and college. After gaining his B.S. in kinesiology from California State University, Northridge, the Palmdale native headed to HB to try his hand at coaching swimmers while building his personal training business. His fascination with fitness, however, is not in his genes. "It's just something that I sort of fell into as a little kid and still do to this day," says Olaya, who just celebrated his 28th birthday.
Flash forward four years, and Olaya still calls HB home and has built a solid clientele at husband- and wife-owned Club Fitness Addiction. He trains Monday through Friday from 5-10 a.m., then for the next 12 hours he focuses on his year-old M80 Roller brand. "I handmake each one of them," says Olaya—instantly blowing our minds. The team of three, which includes two of Olaya's close friends, handle everything from sourcing materials to landing new accounts. Olaya's parents make the trek from Palmdale every weekend to help with assembly and manufacturing. "Pretty much I don't have a life," he says.
The mission to build a more aggressive foam roller began when the athlete signed up for his first half Ironman. Devoting an entire year to training for the athletic event, Olaya ranked a quality foam roller that would aid in muscle maintenance, injury prevention and recovery as his top priority. "The bottom line was that everything out on the market was just not aggressive enough to my standards," he says, adding that as a longtime athlete, he had developed a tolerance to the typical soft foam roller. He asked himself, "Why not try to create the perfect foam roller for myself?"
Tapping into his entrepreneurial spirit, he started rolling with plastic pipes bought at Home Depot. When the stimulation still fell weak, he developed and patented a new type of non-toxic, closed cell foam and dubbed it M80 Grooves, which boasts high durability, water and sweat resistance and the solidity his muscles had been craving. Eventually he selected an industrial grade acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) pipe and wrapped it with his revolutionary foam. After receiving a unanimous thumbs up from his test group—the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—Olaya launched his M80 Roller in January 2013.
If unfamiliar with the foam roller, Olaya can and will gladly talk for hours about its amazing recovery and rehabilitation benefits. Says Olaya, "It's such a neat little tool that barely is starting to become mainstream." Using a technique practiced for over 20 years by physical therapists called self-myofascial release (SMR), foam rollers help prevent injury and accelerate recovery time by giving athletes a foundation on which to massage their muscles by carefully rolling their body parts over the product. "When you apply pressure by leaning a muscle on a foam roller, and you give it 20 to 30 seconds, those little organs actually tell the muscle to actually relax because it thinks that there's so much stimulation, so much pressure building up, that it's actually thinking it's going to rip itself off the bone site." Those little organs, as Olaya expertly explained to us, are Golgi tendon organs, or GTOs, and they basically regulate how much force a muscle can produce. Acting as a biological safety system, GTOs prevent our muscles from ripping off our bones thanks to a reverse psychology effect produced during said stimulation. The result is a fuller range of motion.
Aside from relaxing muscles, the M80 Roller also helps flush lactic acid, loosen up tight muscles and break up scar tissue to allow for healthy tissue growth. Additionally, "you're providing blood flow throughout your whole body, which allows oxygen, nutrients, vitamins and all that to recirculate to speed up the recovery process," says Olaya, who happily rolls out his clients for the last 15 minutes of their sessions. When used pre-workout, foam rollers can boost productivity by 10-15 percent. When used post-workout, they speed up recovery and prevent soreness.
Considering that a whopping 99 percent of professional athletes pack foam rollers in their arsenal, according to Olaya, we agree that the cylinders are a necessity for anyone taking health and wellness seriously. "Hands down it's definitely something that everyone should use," he says. But he warns that first-time foam roller users should opt for the softer versions to build tolerance before graduating to his M80. Rolling in style may be a painful process for some.
In just one year's time, several thousand M80 Rollers are already in circulation. Rogue Fitness, National Football League (NFL) stars, Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, OC Fight Doc and even celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain roll out their bods on Olaya's M80 Roller, and here are six reasons why.
Firstly, Olaya's product is "by far" the most aggressive foam roller in existence. Secondly, no other foam roller company caters to fashion and style like the M80 Roller. There are currently 32 colors to choose from, including camouflage. Thirdly, M80 offers three different roller lengths: 6-inch, 15-inch and 30-inch. Fourthly, M80 is the only company in the world with the ability to private label. Customization, after all, is king. Fifthly, Olaya's products are guaranteed for life, and he visually inspects every single roller before shipping. Of the thousands of rollers currently in use, Olaya has never received a complaint about quality. And lastly, the rollers are waterproof, sweatproof and can be easily washed by hand.
Ohio-based Rogue Fitness has become the M80 guinea pig for wholesale, which is one of Olaya's major goals. With an inventory of non-branded M80 Rollers, the strength and conditioning equipment manufacturer and CrossFit sponsor has been selling the rollers "like hotcakes." The next step is a line of Rogue Fitness branded rollers.
With business booming and requests rolling in daily, Olaya's short term goal for 2014 is to expand the M80 headquarters into a small warehouse in the coming months. His team also hopes to focus on wholesale and branding this year, including personalized rollers for small companies and individuals at affordable prices. Olaya has yet another big goal for the future: to unleash a new product under the M80 umbrella annually. Pairing his life philosophy of high productivity with "trying to live the American dream of starting something from scratch and building it as high as it can get," there is no doubt that M80 will become a household brand in the coming years. This rings especially true given this statement by Olaya: "I stand by not half-assing it and making sure to deliver topnotch products."