Updated: Oct 11
We all know foam rolling has its benefits but what are they and how do you do it? The only way to truly feel and understand the benefits from foam rolling is to....well, foam roll!
Not just once, but repetitively and continually until it becomes a habit in your weekly training routine. Just like running or any other activity we do, true benefits are shown over time. Here I'll go through a foam rolling for runners routine, when to do it and what benefits we'll gain from it.
Why And When To Foam Roll?
Foam rolling has many benefits for both pre, during and post exercise. As a self massaging activity you have control over where to massage and what pressure to put on certain muscles to assist in release and recovery.
Foam rolling will release tension and break up the fascia surrounding the muscle which will give the feeling of more freedom in range of motion and flexibility.
Often when we feel tight and restricted in a range of movement it may not be the muscle being the problem, it may simply be the soft tissue (fascia) surrounding the muscle. A trigger ball or foam roller will help release this tension.
For tension release, after heavy session in the gym or on the feet is a good idea for this. I also recommend 10-20 minutes of foam rolling each night before bed to assist in pain reduction, improved muscle recovery and sleep quality.
Ever had that heavy leg feeling at night? I've noticed a great improvement to this with foam rolling before sleep. I also couple this nightly routine with a magnesium supplement to aid in recovery.
Combining drills and dynamic movements with foam rolling can wake up the muscles and prepare them for your session, race or event. This can assist in improved performance and reducing the risk of injury. Add a small amount of foam rolling at the start of your warm up to feel the benefits, which may help in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle and the removal of waste products.
Before a hard run or lifting session, I'll roll out the muscles I'm about to target a few minutes before activating them further through drills and dynamic movements.
What muscles to target?
Generally, you'd want to foam roller the muscles you are about to use in the session or are tight and sore from previous activity. This however isn't always the case.
Exercise can be complicated! Often we are tight or sore in muscles that are working too hard due other muscles not engaged or activated for the activity.
Running as as example requires the posterior chain predominately to assist in natural and efficient forward propulsion. If we don't have the glutes engaged and working adequately we can overload smaller muscles groups down the chain or secondary muscle drivers causing pain, discomfort, fatigue and often injury.
It's important to understand what muscles you primarily use for your chosen sport or activity to ensure they moving freely with range.
What Foam Roller Is Best?
It really can be a personal choice for foam rollers. I usually stick to the basics and choose a roller that has provides a bit of comfort for night time rolling as I don't want to stimulate the muscles too much before rest. On the other hand, a roller that is firmer and has a smaller surface area to trigger and focus on tight spots and knots in the muscle is beneficial too. This I find is suitable when the muscles are under a lot of stress in big training weeks.
I’m using the Lululemon foam roller in the video below which has a couple of options for comfort and firmness.
How to introduce foam rolling into your training plan
Any good training plan has a variety of training sessions throughout the week. After all, variety is a key principle of training. Just like strength training, at Run Vault Performance we add in stretching and foam rolling sessions in our athletes training plans to engrain the commitment.
We would generally put a small session on a hard training day, a recovery day and a long endurance based day so the Athlete will start to feel the benefits of foam rolling throughout the week.
Foam Rolling For Runners - is it really that important?
If the content above hasn't convinced you, perhaps my own experience and that of some of our athletes will. We have definitely felt an improvement in the quality of sleep and recovery from sessions with regular foam rolling. It's not the one and only habit in our week that contributes to being able to consistently train and perform though.
A Beartrap Muscle Compression Therapy device to trigger point tight spots and knots is another great tool to use. Eating well, drinking plenty of fluids, training smart and consistently all contributed to the success in your training and racing.
Looking to take your training and racing to the next level? Run Vault Performance is the coaching team for you! Get in touch to find out how we can guide you to new heights for running, adventure racing, triathlon or obstacle course racing.
Head Coach - RVP