Beginners: Meet the Foam Roller
Runners new to the sport often use half marathon training to transition from endless hours on the elliptical to the coveted title of, “a runner”. There is a seemingly endless supply of suggestions for half marathon training plans, but what happens to many new runners is an endless supply of sore muscles and reasons to quit. Hold on there. Don’t quit. Instead, make the foam roller part of your daily routine. You have probably seen it, the foam roller is that long cylinder that sits off to the side of the gym with the scary tension bands and torturous ab contraptions. Now that you are a runner, this is not a section of the gym you can afford to ignore. Instead, meet the foam roller. The foam roller is essential to muscle recovery and reducing soreness. Just like it sounds, the purpose of it is for you to roll your running muscles over it, and the roller will help you break up the lactic acid sitting on your muscles (which causes soreness). Breaking up the acid will allow your muscles to successfully absorb both hydration and fuel. The hydration and fuel will allow your muscles to recover faster and get you ready for your next run. Also, muscles perform at their best when they are loose and soft. Running causes muscles to become tight and rigid, especially after a run. Using the foam roller will help use pressure to release the tension in the muscles.
So how do I foam roll?
Focus on the your major running muscles: calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, illiotibial (IT) band, hip flexors, gluteus maximus and medius, neck, and upper back. Roll your body over the roller back and forth several times for each set of muscles. One area that is particularly vulnerable during running is the IT band, a strip of tissue that runs on the outside of your legs from the hip all the way down to just below the knee. Gently rolling the IT band will loosen your hips and legs and allow for a better stretch when you set out to run again. Make the foam roller part of your daily routine, even on off days and cross training days.
While the effects are recovery and flexibility, the foam roller applies deep pressure to ailing muscles. Don’t be surprised if you feel some discomfort during the process. Mild discomfort is okay, but if you are in serious pain, stop. You can also use a baseball or tennis ball to achieve the rolling effect on difficult to reach places like the bottoms of your feet and joints.
You are training for a half marathon, and that is an awesome goal! Help ensure that your training stays on course by foam rolling muscles and keeping them soft. Taking care of your muscles is the key to running every step in your 13.1 miles.