Why Runners Should Use Foam Rollers
Have you ever tried using a foam roller? Do you know exactly what a foam roller is? It’s what a lot of fitness professionals refer to as, ‘the poor man’s massage’. Why is it perfect for runners? Because foam rolling simulates a deep tissue massage by working out the tension in your muscles and by providing a release for the outer sack of the muscles (fascia). Foam Rolling is also called self-myofascial release (or SMR).
Foam rolling is not always relaxing, as those who have ever received a deep tissue massage can attest to. If you have never tried foam rolling before, or haven’t done so in a while, there’s a chance that it can be a bit painful in order to get your muscles to release. But don’t worry, it gets less painful and even easier over time.
As runners, you and I are very familiar with tight quads and calves, and sadly also with the pains and aches that can occur in the knees and hips. But, if you use a foam roller you can easily reduce pains and aches, prevent injury, decrease muscle soreness, and give the muscles the desired release before and after you go for a run.
How To Foam Roll
When you decide to foam roll a particular muscle, roll over the area approximately 1 inch per second. But: it’s important to keep in mind that this may not be possible during your first time foam rolling. Rolling over the muscle at such a slow pace is done to identify the areas of the muscle that are most sensitive and tender. Choose 2 to 3 areas per muscle that you can apply pressure on for 20-30 seconds ensuring proper release. You need to make sure you are able to hold that pressure for the entire duration, otherwise it will not be effective. You don’t have to put pressure exactly on the tender or sore area, near the area is also find.
You can get foam rollers in many widths and lengths. The longer the foam roller, the more variety of areas you will have access to. The smaller the width, the more pressure the foam roller can put on a special area. In my opinion, and what I’ve experienced, the shorter ones fit easier into a locker, a gym bag or a suitcase when traveling. In case you need something compact and not too big, then go for a shorter one. If you want to start, I would recommend one that is 15 x 45cm.
Areas a runner should focus on
*Note: If your calves are very sensitive you can do both together or completely avoid lifting your body off of the ground (for some, just setting their calves on a foam roller is enough pressure). For a deeper release, progress to one at a time. To target the inner and outer sides of the calf muscle (gastrocnemius & soleus), turn the foot (the side of the calf you are foam rolling) side to side.
*Note: In my experience as a trainer, for the majority of my clients this is often the most painful area to foam roll. That’s why you may not be able to roll this particular area very far. Don’t be discouraged, progress is coming faster than you think.
*Note: If your quads are very sensitive you can do both together. Take your time, but try to progress to one quad at a time for a deeper release. Progress even further by bending the knee of the leg you’re foam rolling.
*Note: Please make sure the foam roller is only on one side. Cross the same foot, as side you are foam rolling, over the opposite knee. Roll from the low back, all the way over the glute until it meets the hamstring. You will most likely find the piriformis, the middle of the gluteal muscle, the most tender area.