I know some of you are starting to use the foam roller as part of your weekly training routine with great effect.
For those who aren’t or for those who are having problems with muscle tightness or niggles, here is a short piece that will hopefully help you to get the most out of this simple, but extremely effective piece of equipment.
The Benefits Of The Foam Roller
In essence, a foam roller is a self-massage tool that helps release muscle tightness and knots. In turn, this helps the muscles become more injury resistant and will lead to a greater range of motion and better function. It is also very effective on muscles that already have a strain as it will help to speed up the recovery process.
The massage is best performed after a minimum of 15 minutes warm-up and prior to any static stretching.
How To Use The Foam Roller
To use the foam roller correctly you will need to apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle group using the roller and just your body weight. To cover the entire muscle, break it down into halves or thirds and roll back and forward about ten times over that segment. When you encounter a knot slowly massage back and forth and from side to side for about fifteen seconds or until the discomfort starts to ease. If an area really starts to hurt support some of your weight on your arms (photo B). You can then add more weight as the muscle relaxes.
Once you have finished the massage session perform static stretches on the individual muscles and hold for twenty to thirty seconds. Ultimately the massaged muscle will become smoother, have more mobility and will become stronger and more injury resistant.
As a word of caution never roll on a joint or bone and avoid rolling your lower back.
You can use the roller twice a week on the same muscle group as a form of maintenance and three times a week for rehabilitation on a strain or injury. Make sure not to use the roller on consecutive days on the same muscle.
Calf strains are a common injury due to the constant pounding on the roads whilst training for a big event.
Below are a few recommendations if suffering from a calf strain:
- If running and your calf feels tight and painful – stop and walk.
- Take a few days off from running and sport.
- You need to sort this out straight away – normally a week or so of rest would clear it – you have to be patient, as a few days off will not affect your fitness level.
- Try and find a local sports masseur to help loosen your calves as soon as possible. Try once or twice a week for the first week, and then once a week, then every 10 days – 2 weeks right up to the event.
- Try not to wear heavy shoes during the day and at weekends, unless necessary at work. You need to help reduce the impact on your legs whilst your foot strikes the ground.
- Gently massage your calves in the shower for a few minutes (you should do this every day, as it does help in the long run!)
- Try stretching your calves twice a day (holding a position for 15 seconds then swapping to the other leg x 5 only)
- Keep hydrated throughout the day (mix of water, soft still drinks, electrolyte drinks)
- Magnesium with zinc supplement is a good one to help with bone maintenance and alleviate potential leg cramps when running long distances.
- Check your running shoes- what shoes are you wearing? Nike and Adidas are not that great as the drop from heel to forefoot are too low. You probably need 10mm to 12mm – New Balance 880 are a very good all-round shoe (durable, shock-absorbing, not expensive) and most Brooks shoes are also good.
- Buy a pair of good quality sport compression socks to wear for everyday running and help post long-run activity. Amazing support/protection when pounding the roads and cycling long distances!
- Try and mix your running on grass, dirt tracks and roads to avoid injury. Try and find a stretch of grass/parkland to run a few laps to warm up before heading out on the road.
The full set of stretches Gerard put together avoids injury and also makes your core stronger.