Following on from our stretching article I thought it would be a really good idea to follow up with another favourite of mine.
Apart from the equipment I use for competing the next best piece of equipment I own is my beloved foam roller. In this article I’m going to show you how I use it to keep my muscles in peak condition post training and competing and help aid them in their recovery.
You have all seen them laying there in the gym unloved and longing for somebody to give them a try. I was exactly the same until one day after I went on an extremely long run I decided to give one ago.
OMG my mind was blown . I couldn’t believe how quickly my muscles went from extremely stiff and tense to loose again. I can only liken it to when you first discover Aldi after shopping in one of those other supermarkets the majority of your life.
What Is Foam Rolling
Fascia fascia fascia it’s all about the fascia. The purpose is to relieve muscle tightness, inflammation and soreness. The fascia is that thin layer of connective tissue that holds all of the important bits in one place. Including but not limited to Organs, muscles, nerve fibres and bones. Foam rolling helps release your myofascial tissue when it is sore.
If you imagine that foam rolling is a way to stretch and massage your fascia to relieve all of this tension, soreness and inflammation. Now, think about how much strain us triathletes/duathletes runners put on our muscles. Foam rolling is a perfect way to help us recover.
It’s like getting a deep tissue massage without the expense of having to pay a qualified masseur to deliver it (disclaimer an actual deep tissue massage is always better)
You may be thinking. What the hell is a foam roller?
I’m hoping you’re not but if you are I thought I would include a quick paragraph on it. I foam roller is a cylinder shaped piece of foam that comes in a wide range of densities. From soft foam to solid foam.
Depending on the level of experience you have with them or how deep you want the roll to go will determine which one you go for. They are relatively cheap so you can always start with a lower density roller and work your way up.
What Are The Benefits
You can use foam rollers for every muscle on your body but im going to primarily focus on foam rolling for Triathletes and Duathletes and runners so will be taking you through leg based usage.
The benefits that follow apply to any muscle you work on.
Running, Cycling, Swimming all take it out on your muscles. If you are preparing for an event or increasing your training sessions for another reason you are going to want to recover quickly between them to avoid injury.
A good foam rolling session after training will help speed this process up.
We all know the importance of warming up in helping reduce muscle soreness, increasing the blood flow and raising the body temperature before exercise. Foam rolling to warm up will add an extra level to your warm up (and cool down for that matter) helping pinpoint any pain areas and massaging the larger muscle groups.
A good warm up and cool down routine is a must for any athlete to prevent injury and the above two points made both points at that but one of the biggest benefits to foam rolling is that it gives you that added layer of injury prevention when used the way I explain above.
What Should You Do With Your New Found Piece Of Equipment?
Here’s the good bit. Now that you have this piece of sporting gold what should you do with it. How can you use it effectively to get the benefits outlined above?
Let me show you. What follows is my suggestion for hitting the three most important areas for running. Your Calves, Quads and Hamstrings.
Yes there are other muscle groups you could hit but these exercises can be performed quickly pre and post workout to help in all the ways mentioned above. There are lots of great foam rolling workouts on the internet some of which I will include at the bottom of this article but the three below will be easy enough to incorporate into your daily warm up and cool down routine.
Follow the instructions but be sure to aim for at least 20 – 30 seconds on each muscle.
These are in no particular order so feel free to mix and match. Happy rolling.
The Quad Roll
These bad boys are here to stabilise you when you’re running so be sure to keep them happy. I was going to call this the Superman or Supergirl Quad roll. Not because I feel like a superhero when I do it but because you like like your flying (if you really get your imagination going)
Get your mat out and lie on your tummy in a plank position. Put the roller on your thighs and rock back and forth from your knee to the top of your waist. Be sure to allow your complete body weight to rest on the roller for maximum effect.
The Calve Roll
I couldn’t think of a funny name for this one so we are sticking with Calve roll. There are two variations I use for this roll. One easier than the other. One gives a deeper result. Switch between whatever one you feel like at the time.
Sit on your bum with your legs outstretched. Place the roller under one of your calves and slowly lift yourself up so the roller is taking the weight. Gentle rock back and forth from the ankle to the knee. Once completed, swap over to the other calve and repeat.
For a slightly deeper roll do exactly the same but instead of keeping your other leg away place it on top of the leg on the lower like you are chilling out watching TV. Take the full weight and roll away (Not literally away)
Hammy The Hamstring Roll (and I’m back)
Hamstrings help with so many muscular and spinal functions that it is massively important to keep them well looked after.
This exercise is another one leg at a time exercise unless you are feeling very brave in which case do both legs together. On saying that you will get a deeper roll if you do one at a time.
Like the calve roll, sit on your bum. Instead of putting the roller under one of your calves. You guessed it. Put it under one of your thighs. Putting your hands either side of your waist slowly lift yourself up to take the load on your thigh. Start slowly rocking back and forth. Swap legs and repeat.
Not an exhaustive list of exercises but enough to get you started with foam rolling if you don’t already and adding these three into your pre and post race or exercise routine won’t add too much time either.