If you have visited my blog before, chances are you have read that I incorporate foam rolling into my training regime. Also known as self-myofascial release, foam rolling and other self-massage techniques help to reduce soreness and improve range of motion, which in turn can help to prevent injuries and allow for shorter recovery periods between hard workouts.
Beyond Foam Rolling
I think that by now most runners are somewhat familiar with what foam rolling is and the basics of how to do it, but if not you can go read the post I wrote last year, as a guest post on Michele’s blog: Foam Rolling and Other Self-Massage Techniques for Runners. Yesterday Meredith asked me if I had a post about foam rolling that she could link to in her post today, which made me realize I never specifically wrote about it on here before! So this may be a bit all over the place, but I want to hit on a few key points that I wish I knew when I first started using a foam roller and other
torture devices self-massage tools.
Self-Myofascial Release Tools
When you are starting out with self-myofascial release, I think it’s good to learn the basics and get familiar with how it should feel to foam roll or use other self-massage tools on different areas of your body. This helps you to learn what areas may be your “hot spots” and you can focus on those a little more. Also, as you get more comfortable with it you will be able to work deeper into the muscles to get a better release.
Release Your Muscles with a Plan and Intention
Recently I have started recognizing the purpose behind my foam rolling and using a more strategic approach to it. This meant doing some research to learn which muscles may need to be released based on personal issues/injuries/weaknesses.
For example: I know that my right piriformis likes to tighten up on me, which can lead to other issues in my hips. Rather than just rolling the crap out of that muscle (which I used to do, and I think exasperated the problem at the time) I work on releasing other muscles that may be causing that muscle to tighten up. Often times the piriformis gets overworked because the glutes aren’t firing properly, and this can be due to other tight muscles inhibiting the glute max or glute med. It can also reflect a problem with the other side of the hip (maybe a weak left glute med) and the piriformis works overtime to balance it out.
I learned that releasing the front of the hip flexors, adductors, and TFL help to keep my hips happy and glutes working (sort of- it’s always a work in progress). I also make sure to work on both sides, not just the side where I notice a problem.
So it might sound crazy that those are the muscles I need to foam roll to keep a butt muscle relaxed, right? That’s why you need to think outside the box. It’s also good to just cover all the key muscles a few times a week, especially if you are not having any issues. Foam rolling and self-myofascial release in general can help you to recover faster from a hard workout, so if you are training for a marathon it’s a great supplement to all of the running!
Supernova for releasing the glutes
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my new favorite toys for releasing the glutes is the Supernova. It’s bigger and a little harder than the lacrosse ball, but I find that it’s easier to use in that area because it covers more of the bigger muscles at once.
Here is a list of the tools I like to use on some of the key muscles:
Foam roller: Quads/Hip Flexors, Adductors, Back, IT band/TFL
The stick: Calves (but it’s also great for traveling)
Supernova: Glutes, Piriformis
R8 Recovery roller: Hamstrings (and other upper leg muscles which will also get released at the same time based on the way the device works)
These are a few resources that have helped me to learn about the how and why of self-myofascial release:
There are lots of other great resources too that I probably forgot about! If you know of any, please share in the comments!
Do you incorporate foam rolling into your training/recovery routine?
What is your favorite device for self-myofascial release?
Are you aware of your “hot spots”?