Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Roll out: Basic Foam Roller Exercises for Recovery

Alright folks, let's talk recovery, specifically, foam rolling's role.  We all know we should do it.  We all talk about doing it, but no one ever seems to mention exactly what are they are doing when they "roll out" other than flailing around on the living room floor while the family tries to watch T.V. Just me?
Apparently beer isn't required for proper rolling, but I find it enhances the experience.
With my recent increase in mileage, I've been working hard to rekindle my relationship with my foam roller. My current training plan asks a lot of my body and I need to take recovery seriously. So when I got an email last week from Angela asking for a little foam roller guidance as her husband got her one for Christmas, I figured I'd explain what it is I do with mine during recovery and see what are your favorite exercises as well. I'm always up for learning new tricks.
Our roller stays in the living room right next to the dog toys so it can taunt me when I don't use it enough.
First off Angela, props to your husband for giving you an excellent gift. For our first Christmas, the Jayhawk gave me a coffee maker. While both are incredibly functional and useful gifts, the foam roller can actually make you a better, less injury prone runner, while the coffee maker just feeds my daily caffeine need.
In the Jayhawk's defense, I use the coffee maker everyday.
We all know stretching is important, but there are certain spots and knots that stretching just won't fix. Here is where massage and foam rolling come into play. Since my budget doesn't allow for weekly trips to the masseuse, I use my foam roller to stretch out muscles and soft tissues, break up scar tissue, and relieve knots/trigger points. I aim to have 2-3 good sessions a week (20-30 min each) and additionally roll out troublesome spots as needed. I usually roll after my run when my muscles are warm or after walking the dog on recovery days.
Come here often? Not as often as I should.
Let's start with the basics. The best way to roll is to slowly roll the muscle of interest across the foam roller while using your body weight to apply pressure. When you hit a knot or tender point, hold it. No, it doesn't feel awesome, but the combination of body weight and gentle pressure helps to release muscle tension and stretch out tight spots. The foam roller can be used to roll out any muscle, but it's all about getting in the right position to access that muscle. I mainly roll my legs, butt, and back so here are a few of my favorites that I frequently focus on.
Butt off the ground, majority of body weight on the leg on the roller.
I usually start by getting in the crab-walk position (you remember from grade school). This is a great position to get all the muscles on your backside (calves, hamstrings, butt, etc). You can roll both legs at once, but I find I can isolate spots better by doing each leg individually. I slowly roll through each muscle while keeping the majority of my body weight on the muscle of interest. It really helps get a deeper massage. Rotating my legs gets different muscles in the calf (or thigh) and access to different spots. To access the quads, I just flip over to the push-up position and do the same thing.
Each one of these positions will get different muscles or different angles to help get everything rolled out.
Rolling out the IT band is another great use of the foam roller. It takes a little practice to get in the right position, but I find crossing over the non-rolling leg really helps to stabilize your body. I start just above the knee and go through just below the hip.
This can also roll out hips.
Angela, I hope that helps get you started! For this post I focused on recovery in particular, but the foam roller can also be used for strength training as well. If people are interested, I can put together a post on exercises for strength. Just let me know if that would be helpful!

Ok, your turn. Do you foam roll? What are your favorite recovery exercises with the foam roller?

Resources for further reading:
How to use a foam roller-Good basics with photos
Runner's Worlds Rolling Tips-Info on specific muscles and types of rollers

17 comments:

  1. Your post is a great reminder. I've been using my foam roller much more diligently this year, and it really helps especially with increasing the frequency of my training.

    The only thing that would add is, for me I've found that if I stack my legs, the lower calf gets a much deeper massage.

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    1. Thanks Frank! I see a big difference when I am more consistent about my rolling too. Great tip on the added weight/pressure by stacking legs! Great job on all your racing!

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  2. I don't currently have a foam roller, but I wish I did! There was one at the gym I was using over the winter and I would roll at the end of my session! I loved i! Right now, I use a tennis ball to massage the tender spots under my feet. It really does help!

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    1. A tennis ball is a great option too and sometimes it gets into small spots better. Sounds like you might need to put a roller on your next birthday wishlist!

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  3. Seriously great foam rolling tips here, E! Which reminds me, my right leg is feeling really tight; I need to go roll... ;)

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    1. Thanks Beth! Haha, so true. :D

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  4. Awesome tips! I need to start this regularly. I use the stick, but I am not sure if it as good. I vote for a strength training post!

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    1. Thanks Karen! I have the stick as well and I find they are both great for different things. I'll put together some strength training ideas! :)

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  5. Foam roller = love/hate relationship. It helps so much with my IT band but I need to be more consistent about it!
    Karen @karenlovestorun

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    1. Absolutely! It hurts so good!

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  6. Foam rolling hurts so good. I need to do it more.

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  7. Two other massage tools that I really like are a lacrosse ball for glutes and the Orb for hamstrings.

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    1. I don't know the orb, but a lacrosse ball is great for getting in tough spots! Great recs.

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  8. At first thanks a lot for your great tips … I have been wanting to get a foam roller for some time but just haven't gotten around to buying one. I was researching them and found this 2 in 1 design.

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  9. Such a nice blog and very nice you work and sharing this wonderful article about the Foam Rolling Positions.
    Rollga Foam Roller

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  10. Enjoyed every bit of your article.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

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