Benefits of a foam roller: Why runners should use it
If you haven’t tried foam rolling yet, what are you waiting for? Just like ironing wrinkles out of your rumpled shirt, the cylinder-shaped exercise equipment massages, loosens and lengthens stiff muscles after a strength or cardio session. When used in addition to your post-run stretching, a foam roller can prevent injury and keep your muscles strong week after week.
Though most sporting goods retailers have foam rollers available, employees at local specialty stores like Run Detroit, Running Fit and Hansons Running Shop can provide extra knowledge on all things running in the Mitten State. They can help calm your fears. Yes, foam rolling can be painful, but after 15 to 20 minutes, your muscles will feel much more relaxed and will recover more quickly.
What stretches are best?
For each of the below foam rolling exercises, slowly roll up and down along the muscle group you are targeting. If you notice a tight area, pause and apply additional pressure to help loosen the tissue.
- Glutes – Sit on top of the roller and cross one leg over the other knee. Place hands on floor behind you and roll around from side to side and up and down, concentrating on the glutes. Repeat on other side.
- Calves – Sit with your legs straight in front of you. Cross your left ankle over your right and place the roller under your right calf. Lift your body off the ground so you are supported by your hands and the roller, then roll from the back of your knee to your ankle. Switch legs. Tip: Pay close attention to tight spots!
- I.T. Band – Lie on your left side and place the foam roller under the outer side of the left thigh. Bend right leg and place right foot in front of left leg (keep left leg straight). Holding yourself up with your arms, roll up and down the entire length of your thigh, stopping before you hit your knee. Repeat on other side. Tip: Make the pressure bigger by stacking legs on top of each other.
- Quads – Start out in a basic plank position with the roller under the front of your thighs. Use your arms to move your body, rolling up and down your quad. (Again, make sure to stop before you reach your knee joint.) Tip: Keep your legs as relaxed as possible to really work through any tight areas.
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Photo credit: Tara Calihman