I've had a few requests recently to create a blog or vlog post about foam rolling techniques for runners, and I finally had a chance to grab some pics & write this up for you guys. So here it is! Foam rolling for runners: WHY foam roll, WHERE to foam roll, and HOW to do it.
WHY is foam rolling so beneficial? Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release (self-massage, if you will):
1. increases blood flow to muscles, thus speeding up recovery
2. reduces muscle tension, increasing mobility/range of motion & improving performance
3. works out lactic acid residing in muscles after a hard workout, thus relieving soreness
WHERE and HOW: I've demonstrated the 6 muscle groups that I believe are the most important to foam roll as a runner. Keep reading to learn about best technique & which muscles you should be rolling!
Your quads are the front of your thighs. To roll out your quads, lay thighs on foam roller and roll all the way from your hips to your knees. Make sure you're putting as much body weight as possible on the foam roller so you're really working out that fascia. Also, bring your heel up to your butt & back down a few times.
The best way to roll out your calves is to isolate each calf. Place one leg over the other to press calf into foam roller as much as possible. Roll up and down and also flex and relax foot. Feel free to also roll out your lateral calf (outside portion of calf) and also your shins, especially if you sometimes experience shin splints.
Your adductors lie within the inside of your thigh. To roll these out, place foam roller parallel to your body and place inside of thigh perpendicular to roller. Your leg should be at a 90* angle. Straddle roller and roll from your groin down to your knee and back. I typically find that either my groin or my knee area are more sore than the other; in that case, I will typically hold the position in either location until I've worked out some of the tension.
Your IT band, or iliotibial band, is a ligament that runs down the side of your leg from your hip to your shin. It's a common overuse injury among runners, which is why it's very important to foam roll. Lay on your side on top of the roller with your top leg crossed over your bottom leg for leverage. Roll from your hip to your knee and back again. Make sure you're rolling SLOWLY along your IT band, and if you find a "hotspot" that's a bit more tender than the rest of the area, make sure you sit on it while the tension dissipates.
The hamstring, or the back of the thigh, is an area of common tightness among runners. Similarly to the calf, the hamstring is easiest and best rolled out individually. Cross one leg over the next and roll from the knee to the glutes.
PIRIFORMIS and GLUTE MUSCLES
The piriformis, or the external rotator of the hip located behind the gluteus maximus, is typically tight amongst many humans as our jobs force us to sit on our butts all day. A tight piriformis can lead to piriformis syndrome, which can involve muscle spasms and affectation of the sciatic nerve leading to numbness and pain down the back of the leg. Not fun: trust me, I've had it. Thus, rolling out the piriformis is pretty significant. To do so, sit on your butt on the foam roller & cross one leg over the other. Lean into the butt cheek of the leg that's crossed. If you feel around a bit, you should locate a "hot spot"; that's typically the pirifomis. Stay there on that spot for a minute or so until the tenderness and tension dissipates.
So there you have it! The best foam rolling techniques for runners and the muscle groups associated. As always, please feel free to respond with any questions or comments.