DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, I just play one in this blog post.
Many people know what I mean. Those large, hard foam logs that people roll around on to “loosen” up tight muscles. And many people, myself included prior to my running experience, thought those people were just, well, weird. How in the world is a foam stick going to do anything for you or your muscles? All they ever helped me do was float in the pool as a kid. Well, as it happens, besides not being the same type of foam roller, they do much more than that.
Foam and trigger point rolling not only helps improve blood circulation to your muscles, but also blood flow, loosens muscles, and can even assist in reducing pain. As a new runner I quickly learned of muscles that I never really knew I had prior to running. After a few training runs I remember thinking, “where did these muscles come from and what do they do?”. But, obviously they are important, otherwise they would not be there….screaming at me. So I learned about foam and trigger point rolling. Now, these are two very similarly different things (see what I did there?). Personally I like the harder rollers, and more often than not I like roller sticks. The foam rollers just do not do anything for me. But regardless there are some general rules I like to follow to at least decrease the chance I get actually injured from using a form of injury prevention.
- I drink ALOT of water. ALOT. This is just something that I got used to after beginning my running fun anyway, but this is always important when rolling because the hydration helps keep those tissues moist.
- I generally try to roll a problem area BEFORE a run. However, honestly, sometimes I don’t know of a problem until after a run. So I try to remember to roll that area the next couple to few times I run after realizing the problem BEFORE my feet hit the road.
- Knead everywhere. I remember once after I bought my house that my dad had told me to, “mow the grass in different directions every time. Vertical, horizontal, diagonal, etc..”. I use this thought process when rolling. This can help break up and loosen the tissues all around. Have you ever seen those “muscle body” pictures? Our muscles go in every direction. So should your rolling.
Now, these are just MY personal choices. Of course you could find varying differences of opinion. I have learned, however, NEVER ROLL YOUR IT BAND. Can you say, “OUCH!!!”? I mean, that thing hurts like crazy when it flares up, why oh why would you ever want to add to that pain?
I do recommend trying out many different types of rollers before making a purchase. They can be cheap or expensive. They can be everyday items or specialty. They can be soft foam or hard plastic. I have running friends who use standard kitchen rolling pins, tennis balls, golf balls and other every day items. Trigger point rollers are made of a harder material and more like a rolling pin. They can also be larger and hollow. Personally, I like being able to use my hands to determine the pressure amount used, so I use a roller that is more of a rolling pin type.
I need to do lots of rolling on my calves. I tend to get a lot of “charlie horse” type cramps that render me to a crying little girl when they hit. Last night I did a 3 mile run in the snow. Granted, my shoe choice was not that great, but wow did I feel that after I was done. In my opinion sand is the worst to run in, but snow comes in a close second. So I went home after and rolled my calves before bed. Feel great today!
When it is all said and done, just make sure to research and try things out before committing to a purchase (unless you have unlimited funds). Rolling can be of great benefit when you need it to be, just make sure to know what you are doing so as to not make things worse.
Keep running! Much Love!