Today I am going to cover the benefits and use of a foam roller and how you might want to consider adding foam rolling into your weekly activities as a way to help release trigger points and keep the muscles and connective tissues of your body in optimal running shape.
I want to give a special shout out to Kelly Frye for completing her first marathon at the Route 66 Tulsa Marathon. Congratulations and we hope to hear about your second marathon soon!
Thank you for a rapid sell out of my Marathon Training Clinic session that starts on January 3rd, 2012! It sold out in 5 days! If you did not get in, I will be having another clinic in mid-May for the Fall marathon and half marathon season. I highly recommend signing up for my email newsletter so you can be among the first to know. My email list gets notified before the general public. You can sign up by following the links to the right side of this page.
So Back in episode 32, I shared the topic of massage and the benefits of using myofascial release techniques that when done properly by a licensed massage therapist can release trigger points and help loosen up your muscles that have a tendency to tighten up over time. You don’t have to listen to that episode first, but if you are interested in this topic, be sure to check out episode 32 as well on the website as there is some crossover but also some differences.
I discuss what myofascial release is as well as what are trigger points. I also describe what fascia is and why stretching alone rarely does the trick. I also spend some time discussing the application of foam rollers, the two main types, and describe my own experience with two different type of rollers that I recommend to runners. They are:
- 6″ x36″ Foam Roller for a wide use of exercise and techniques, from hips, back, abs, glutes, quads, calfes, IT Band, etc.
- The Marathon Stick “The Stick” which is portable and better for calf muscles or easy to get to areas.
I also describe a book that was recommended to me by my doctor called, On A Roll @ Home, which is a little on the pricey side at around $24, on Amazon, but is spiral bound which makes it perfect to exercise with and it is highly detailed. It ranks the exercises from beginner to advanced, and more importantly gives you little check points and tips to make sure the exercises are working for you. It isn’t specific to runners, but most of the exercises will work for runners as well and covers a lot of the core, back, abs, etc.
The reason why I recommend a book or other resource like a DVD or video is that technique is very important when using a foam roller. As I discuss some people get results, some don’t and I believe it comes down to two reasons why some don’t. They either aren’t doing the exercises properly, or they don’t have any fascia issues or trigger points that need working out.
Also be sure to check out the article I mentioned in the podcast that accompanies this topic. It demonstrates the use of foam rollers particularly when dealing with iliotibial band syndrome (IT Band) between your hips and knees or calf issues. Both of these issues are very common in runners and can be problematic. Foam rollers and Self Myofascial Release techniques can really help when used consistently as part of an overall strategy to deal with tightness issues or trigger points.
Finally, I cover some of the things to keep in mind when you are using your roller. This is not an inclusive list. See podcast for more details.
- The basic idea is to generate direct pressure from your own body weight until you find your trigger points. A trigger point will be focused and sensitive to pressure. You will definitely know when you hit one as it is an unpleasant feeling and sometimes very painful. Gently roll back and forth across the painful of stiff area for 30-60 seconds spending extra time over the knot or trigger point itself. It may feel uncomfortable and even tender at first but it will get better in time. Occasionally stop and rest atop the trigger point until you find it loosening up. Sometimes rolling past and coming back helps.
- When rolling, try to address the target area anywhere from one to two times a day and spend at least 10-20 minutes a day. At first, allow a few days in between sessions as you may need some recovery time. This recovery time will decrease.
- Start slowly and build up each session time over several days or weeks. Don’t go overboard as you need time to acclimate your body to this type of massage.
- Lightly stretch the area before foam rolling and do a light, active warm-up to warm your muscles.
- Avoid foam rolling immediately after a long run or race. Give it a day or two. You don’t want to take little micro-tears that are normal and turn them into macro-tears.
- Avoid rolling over bony areas or joints.
- Over a few days you should start seeing some noticeable improvements, but real improvement comes over several weeks. Don’t expect problem areas to go away completely right away.
- As you roll over the roller, think of yourself as rolling dough with a rolling pin. Follow the contours and curves of your muscles.
- A little pain is normal, but avoid highly painful situations. Your kneading your muscles and breaking down adhesion’s so you may feel a little bruised or sore afterwards. This is OK.
- If you are currently injured, do NOT use a foam roller until you see your doctor to make sure it is OK to do so because you don’t want to make an existing injury worse.
Final Wrap Up:
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I thank you for your time and see you all again soon!