One of the beautiful things about running is pushing your body beyond what you thought was possible to achieve a goal, whether that’s running a mile without walking or completing your first 50k race through rugged trails.
When pushing our bodies, soreness and tight muscles usually follow. Common trouble spots for runners include the quadriceps and hamstrings (front and back of thighs), the deep hip region and gluteus medius, and the outer thigh; more commonly known as the IT band. As an avid runner of 10 years, I’ve learned to accept this soreness, but I’ve also found strategies to help relieve it, including proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, and my favorite: foam rolling.
Foam rolling is a technique, also known as myofascial release, which is used to stretch your muscles and tendons, as well as break down scar tissue and knots. These knots and trigger points can occur when the fascia (connective tissue underneath the skin) and muscle tissue get stuck together. This adhesion causes soreness, restricted movement, and pain. By applying pressure using a foam roller, you will be softening and lengthening the fascia, breaking down scar tissue, improving flexibility and range of motion, and recovering more quickly.
Foam rolling is best performed after a workout when the muscles are warm. All you need to do is gently roll back and forth on the affected muscles areas. And if you find a particularly painful area (trigger point), stay on that area and make smaller movements to try and release the knots. Focus the majority of your time on the areas that are tight or have reduced range of motions.
So, are you ready to learn how to foam roll your way to happy muscles? Try out the following exercises after your next run, and you’ll never know how you lasted so long without a trusty foam roller by your side.
Sit on the floor with the foam roller underneath your hamstrings (back of thighs). Straighten your arms and lift your glutes off the ground. Roll back and forth from glutes to back of knees. Turn your toes inward and outward to work inner and outer muscles of the hamstrings. I find this muscle group is easier to get with a handheld roller.
If you are new to minimalist or barefoot running, this will definitely help you out. Sit on the floor and start by foam rolling underneath your knees. Lift your body off the floor and roll from the back of the knee down to the ankle. Again, I find this muscle easier to get to with a handheld roller.
Lie sideways on top of the foam roller. Drop the top knee slightly in front of body. Roll between your knee and hip bone. For most people this area is very tender, but definitely warrants focus for the relief it provides. For more pressure, keep the top leg straight and off the ground.
Sit on top of the foam roller. Walk feet out until foam roller is underneath the lower back and roll up to shoulders blades, then back down to the lower back.
After a run, work out the muscles in your feet, especially the arch and forefoot, which will be more sore if you are getting used to your minimal running shoes. Some of the best tools I have found are available at Born to Run. The first is the Tiger Tail Rolling Muscle Massager. It’s a hand held massager that’s easily portable and easy to use. I typically bring this with me when I’m traveling or when I need a quick hamstring, quadriceps, or calf roll. Also available at Born to Run is the Tiger Tail Rolling ball for feet, shoulders, and the back, as well as large foam rollers to perform the exercises above.
The foam roller is an extremely effective and inexpensive way to treat and prevent common injuries and muscle soreness. A few minutes a day will be worthwhile, and trust me—your happy muscles will thank you.
About the Author: Erin Nielsen is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and ambassador for SKORA Running with a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion. When not involved in sales and social media at Born to Run, Erin is most likely running, reading, or helping others become healthier individuals. Current Shoe Rotation: All SKORA’s (Base, Form, Phase, Core)