I’ve been a runner for over 25 years. We are easy to recognize: lean, toned, thinned out in the face and a few extra wrinkles around the eyes and lips. I’m proud of the thousands of miles I have clocked and have medals and stories to prove it. However, like many who have developed a runners lifestyle I also relate to runner problems. Although I am definitely an ectomorph and do cross training to maintain a stable core, I am still vulnerable to injury and tight muscles.
Just as a luxury car needs regular maintenance, so do runners. That is why I devote at least 40 minutes every evening to foam rolling. Beginning with my calves, I lay down so the foam roller is right underneath one of them beginning at the Achilles. I then cross the inactive leg over the leg that has the roller under it. I roll the back and sides while watching the evening news or while our family’s enjoying a movie. When the roller hits a tight spot (I usually gasp at this point), I hold it for 30 seconds and then slowly roll until I find the next suspect. When I finish with my calves I move up to my hamstrings which are notoriously tight. Beginning as close to the glutes as possible, I make my way down the roller, one hamstring at a time and resting for 30 seconds when I locate the tight areas. Again, crossing the opposite leg over the one being rolled, adds more intensity. I will then lay on the foam roller and do the same routine with my quadriceps. These muscles can be overlooked until you begin having knee pain. Foam rollers also work wonders on tight hip flexors (running sisters, take note!) just be sure to only roll on the muscles and never bones.
Foam rolling is a self-massage that not only relieves tightness but also contributes to instant relaxation. I tend to sleep better when I do this nightly routine. Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He may not have experienced the worth of a foam roller, but he clearly understood that prevention was a much better option than injury.