Here’s the thing about running: if you’re not hurting, chances are, you’re doing it wrong. Pain is a part of life for serious runners, and if you are covering some serious distance you are bound to have a few niggles here and there. Not all of them are serious, though – especially if you are new to hitting the road on your own two feet, pain in calves, shins and ankles is only to be expected. The good news? It goes away. Eventually. But the key to helping your legs, hips and lower back cope with all the new impact and movement is simple: roll it out.
Foam rolling is nothing new, but more and more runners are starting to see the benefits. To see for yourself, grab a foam roller and hit the floor for some “self-myofascial release,” otherwise known as self-massage.
Here’s How It Works:
1. Exercise induces microtears and swelling in muscle fibres, which impinge on nerves and vessels. Over time, this can develop into adhesions and scar tissue.
2. Foam rolling helps smooth out these obstructions and break down adhesions, helping to increase blood flow within the muscle.
“Most men work all day crouched over a keyboard, so they come to the gym all tight,” says PT Tyler English. “Foam rolling relieves that tension by releasing your knots, boosting your mobility and blood flow, raising your core temperature and increasing your range of motion.” In short, it prepares your body for the workout to come and sets the stage for recovery afterwards. “People think of recovery as taking place after a workout,” English says. “But with foam rolling, you can kick it into gear at the start.”
Our new favourite roller: the range from Blackroll. Check out the wide range of rollers, big and small, on the Blackroll Facebook page, where you can click through to the shop too. What makes these German-made rollers different? They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from long pipes designed to target the hammies and quads, to little balls perfect for hitting each and every vertebrae in your back. They’re also hard as hell, so they won’t become soft and ineffective as you roll.
Here’s How To Do It:
“Begin with your calves and slowly work your way up your body – front and back – giving each muscle group at least five rolls,” says English. “If you can stand it, use a ball against a wall to work tough-to-reach spots, like your pecs and deltoids, which are problem areas for many people.” Repeat the process at the end of your workout. You’ll spend 10 to 15 extra minutes at the gym, but the performance boost will be worth it.
If you hit a sore spot, hold it there for 15 to 30 seconds – you found a tight area that needs special attention, says Joe Hashey, owner of Synergy Athletics. Yes, foam rolling can be painful, but you need only five to 10 minutes to reap the benefit. Just as important as how you roll is when you roll: after a workout is best, followed by a static stretch of the muscle, says Hashey. This helps your muscles return to the proper length and recover even faster because it can prevent the build-up of scar tissue.