When I was just a newbie runner (which I basically still am) I started to do a little research on injury prevention. This was top of mind for me because I was over 320 pounds and I knew that I wanted to really push myself much farther than my large frame was accustomed to. I knew that the extra weight I was carrying was going to take it’s toll on my muscles and joints.
The first thing I learned was to take a great joint supplement. I’ll save that topic for another post, but I use Relief from ItWorks.
The second bit of advice I really took to was the practice of foam rolling.
What is foam rolling?
Foam rolling is also referred to a self-myofacial release or the “poor man’s massage”. Myofascial release is a technique massage therapists have been using for years. If you’ve had a massage before, you may recall the therapist applying a good amount of pressure, often with a forearm, and slowly dragging that pressure along your back or legs. This pressure along with the slide, works out the knots or “trigger-points” in your muscles. To be able to do this yourself is where the foam roller comes in. By leaning against or sitting on the roller, you then slowly roll over the foam roller to achieve a similar outcome that the masseuse achieves. There really is no substitute for a proper massage, but a foam roller can be a close alternative.
What are the benefits of foam rolling?
Some of the benefits of foam rolling include increasing the blood flow to your muscles. This can help get nutrients to your muscles which can help stimulate growth or recovery. After a workout a good foam rolling session can also force the lactic acid out of your muscles so you don’t get as sore and can recover and get back to physical activity quicker. Also the pressure on your muscles actively stretches your muscles and tendons, in effect stretching them. This will help you avoid injuries while running or doing other physical activities.
Now what is a stick roller?
Now the stick roller is really my favorite. A stick roller is a much thinner, usually a “stick” with plastic or foam wheels in the middle of two handles. This type of roller is unique in that you hold it in your hands. It does the exact same thing as a foam roller, but it is more of a precision tool. You can more easily, and more quickly, work different muscle groups. Also because of it’s size it is much easier to travel with.
When should I foam or stick roll?
This is a point of contention for some people. But I have found this to be the best recipe:
Before workouts: Rolling before a workout does a great job of stretching and limbering up your muscles. It get’s your blood moving and prepares them for physical activity.
After workouts: Rolling directly after your workout is a great way to roll out the blood that tends to pool in your muscles. It gets the blood moving and makes way for the nutrients and oxygen your muscles need to recover.
In-between workouts: Rolling in between workouts is a great way to keep stretching your muscles. And as mentioned above, it works the lactic acid out of your muscles, helping you avoid too much soreness.
What I use:
Idson Stick Roller: A Steal on Amazon for only $10.95.
Like I said before, I have become a huge advocate for foam rolling. I have been doing it for months and, cross my fingers, have been injury free despite all the miles I’m putting in. I hope this helps give some direction and insight into the world of foam rolling.
~ Jay Cunningham