Let’s Talk About Foam Rolling

I was going to start this entry by telling you guys that I have a love/hate thing going on with foam rolling.

But… then I decided that I didn’t want to start lying to you this early on in our fledgling reader/writer relationship. (Don’t worry, I promise that if I ever start telling lies in my blogs, I’ll make them really obvious.)

For reference, things I do have a love/hate relationship with include: trashy television aimed at teenage girls, reading celebrity gossip, spending too much time on social media, and cheese.

When it comes to foam rolling and me, there is no love involved.

At first glance, a foam roller appears to be exactly what it sounds like: a cylinder made of some sturdy kind of Styrofoam that, well, you roll on. This is a deception. A foam roller is actually a torture device. Until recently if someone had told me that foam rollers were actually discovered in a Medieval dungeon and re-purposed by personal trainers to punish problem clients, I would have had no trouble believing it. Especially since every trainer I’ve ever worked with has made me foam roll and I’m a problem client if ever there was one.

Having complained about it one too many times, however, I’ve been given the real story about why foam rolling is important and why it is especially good for runners. So, obviously, I had to share!

When you foam roll, you’re performing self-myofascial release. (This is a fancy way to say self-massage and writing it makes me feel very important.) Basically, after you work out, if your muscles are anything like mine, they are tired, sore, and really angry at you. A foam roller helps to break up knots and restore blood flow, which then helps your muscles to return to health and elasticity so that you’re ready to work out again.

The only problem is that it is about as comfortable as childbirth. (Disclaimer: I have never given birth.)

Discomfort issues aside, when I see the benefits of foam rolling spelled out like that, I can’t deny that it’s going to have to be an important part of my half-marathon training. Running seriously beats up on the large muscles in the lower half of the body. If I don’t take care of them now I’ll never make it to February still standing! So, I’ll foam roll. And I will even cut down on the number of times I tell JK that I possibly hate her for making me.

Important thing to remember when foam rolling as a runner:

  • Foam roll before and after you run to help yourself stay loose.
  • Make sure you focus on your IT bands, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves (basically your whole leg, really). Take your time on each muscle group and don’t forget any!
  • Afterward, do some other stretching and some mobility work like bodyweight squats or band walks.

And if you see me foam rolling while you’re on the fitness floor, feel free to say hi. You’ll be a welcome distraction, trust me.

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