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Foam rolling is not just for the elite athlete anymore it is for you and me! and I have found it very beneficial, especially as a runner when I am in training for an event and doing more mileage.
If you’re a beginner runner or have only just started, you should know that waking up almost too sore to get out of bed is going to be a regular thing from now on. Don’t worry, though, it’s completely normal, it’s known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. It’s micro-damage on connective tissue and muscle fibers caused by exercise but it’s completely harmless and only lasts for a few days. In the mean time it can be a literal pain so luckily foam rolling can help you out. Here is what you need to know.
What is foam rolling?
A Foam roller is essentially a self-massage tool that you lie on to relieve aches and pains. That being said, it is not the only purpose and can be used by beginner runners to stave off common running injuries!
I find that when I am doing long runs and have other activities the next day, foam rolling helps to avoid too much soreness when I wake up the next morning (which is perfect for netball matches when I need to bring my A-game!)
Areas of the body to foam roll
Foam rolling benefits TONS of different areas of the body but being a beginning runner you need to know the areas that are most important for you.
Focusing on the: calves, hamstrings, IT band, quadriceps, lower back and glutes is particularly important as they are impacted the most when running and they aren’t necessarily used to this kind of activity (torment) straight away so they will bound to be sore. The glutes and IT band in particular are common causes of injury for beginner runners and can lead to other injuries in the knees and back.
Foam rolling these areas can help to reduce pain, fully stretch your ligaments to reduce the risk of injury and can also help with things such as sciatic pain.
How to foam roll
Foam rolling is fairly simple you do the same movement for every area, you just have to switch your position and the position that the foam roller is in. Fundamentally you lean on it and exert pressure down to work out knots, sore muscles, pressure points or tense muscles.
For example when foam rolling your IT band you’re going to lay on your side, place the roller right below your hip bone. Once you’ve positioned yourself correctly you’re going to roll down until the foam roller stops just above the knee, be sure to keep your forward foot flat on the ground, this will help stabilize your body.
To self-massage your feet arches at the desk (or in general) place a ball (tennis or lacrosse balls are ideal) underneath the foot in the arch and roll around – exert different pressures to relieve muscle soreness.
When it comes to your glutes you’ll sit on directly on top of the foam roller and cross one leg over the other and lean slightly on the leg you’re working on. Begin rolling down just a few inches, no more than that or you’ll fall off. Like I said it is easy you’ve just got to position your body and the roller right then slowly roll the area out. You can find specific positions and area exercises on the RumbleRoller site if you need a visual.
When to foam roll
You can foam roll before or after a run, when you wake up, or before you go to bed. There isn’t really a wrong or a right time to foam roll but these times are just the best or most convenient times to do it. Ultimately it comes back to whenever is convenient to you, and it doesn’t have to be on an exercise day, a rest day is also suitable.
If you’re very sore then it’s best to foam roll at night before going to bed (trust me it makes you feel better). Personally, I would recommend foam rolling each area for at least 2-3 minutes at a time, three times a week which only sets you back around 15-25 minutes a session.
If you feel sore or tired at all you should do an extra foam rolling session to help speed up the healing process, and it will make you feel more comfortable afterwards.
When NOT to foam roll
If at any time foam rolling makes the pain or soreness worse (outside of the normal foam rolling discomfort), you should stop and seek advice from a healthcare professional.
If you are injured or recovering from injury then you should consult with your physiotherapist or doctor and they will give you advice on how and how long to use it for (or if it is suitable with your type of injury).
Different Foam Rollers
Rollers come in different forms, shapes and sizes and as there are quite a few types it depends on what you are going to do with it.
For lighter stretching and rolling for everyday care a smooth foam roller is ideal, whereas if you want a deeper stretch or to deal with knots and ligaments more effectively you can opt for a noduled version. The depth of the nodules will determine how hard it is and can make the discomfort more intense but does work better in the long run.
Where do I get one?
I got mine from Amazon and what I love about it is that there are different points for different amounts of pressure so it makes it a great all round roller and perfect for beginners! Plus it is quite compact and small which suits me fine, here is the one I have (I will leave this affiliate link here): Fitness-Mad Vari-Massage Foam Roller – Black/Red
Does it hurt?
Yes is the short answer, it can. It will feel uncomfortable (it will feel great after though) because you are fundamentally exerting pressure on sensitive muscle points, knots and massaging deep tissues. sorry . it is definitely worth it though. You build up the time you can stand it for and eventually it becomes routine! It is no more uncomfortable than a sports massage and at least you can stop or start if it gets too much.
Using a roller will dramatically reduce the amount of recovery time that is needed. Another great thing is doing a brief rolling session right after a run which will reduce a build-up of lactic acid in your muscle fibres and this will help you avoid being incredibly sore for days – especially if you went for a hard run.
Rolling the lower body will increase oxygen and blood flow and doing this before a run will significantly lower your chances of injury whilst running. Runners are known for having poor flexibility and sometimes sciatic nerve issues due to the continuous motion and impact on your muscle fibres. But using a foam roller, you can regularly stretch and work everything you need to and flatten the knots in your fascia out which will noticeably increase flexibility.
These are just a few benefits of the foam roller for runners but there are SO many more and they are highly recommended by professionals and physiotherapists.
That being said, foam rolling is not ONLY for runners, it is for anyone who works out, exercises or plays sports, etc. It itself can be used as a tool for exercising, foam rolling is a way for anyone who does physical activity to help combat soreness and give their body the proper stretching/massage so they don’t end up injuring themselves.
Do you use a foam roller? how often do you use it? I would love to know!
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