As runners, recovery can be one the hardest parts of our training. We have the miles mapped out, we put in the time for those long runs, and we are generally good about doing our strength exercises, but recovering effectively sometimes goes by the wayside until we get injured or have aches and pains during our runs. The next couple of months will have a post on a different component of recovery as we head into training for fall races. First up is foam rolling!
I am the first to admit that I am not as diligent about foam rolling as I should be, and it often comes back to bite me. Even coaches struggle with recovery! Foam rolling is important for many reasons including: loosening up tight muscles, increasing circulation to muscles, breaking up scar tissue, and improving mobility. While it’s primarily used after running, it can also be used pre-run to loosen everything up before heading out. It’s important to roll the entire leg when foam rolling – not just the area that feels tight. More often than not, a specific area is tight because it’s overcompensating for other tight (or weak) muscles. The calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes/IT band are all important to hit while foam rolling. When you hit a tight spot, hold for a few extra seconds to massage it out. It will hurt, but your body will thank you later!
There are a lot of tools out there, and there’s not one “right” foam roller. I like to use different devices for different parts of my leg. I recommend having a larger one, like the black Trigger Point foam roller or a stick-type roller, like the Addaday, both seen here, as well as a smaller one (like the R3 or a lacrosse ball) for areas like the calves and piriformis.
Below are some pictures to help you get started.
I find it less awkward to use the Addaday for the quads, but a traditional foam roller can also be used. Be sure to get all four muscles of the quads.
You’ll also get some glutes with this one. If you need to get in deeper into your butt/hip, use a lacrosse ball.
The R3 or a lacrosse ball will dig in deeper to your calves, as these are often tight and overlooked when foam rolling, but a stick or more traditional foam roller works too!
Pacers has a bin of demo foam rollers for you to try, so you can see which one you like best. While foam rolling isn’t exactly fun, especially when your muscles are cranky, it is necessary to keep you running injury-free. You can do it while watching TV, waiting for dinner to cook, or right before bed. If done on a regular basis, all it takes is 5-10 minutes a day to keep tight muscles at bay.
Tammy Whyte is the owner and head coach at TW Training and Wellness and is both a certified personal trainer (NASM) and certified running coach (RRCA). Summer Marathon and Half Marathon Training Programs are now open for registration, and they include monthly workshops on topics such as recovery and injury prevention. Programs are open to all levels of runners and start in June. Check out more information and her training programs at www.twtrainingwellness.com. Feel free to reach out with questions at [email protected].