Those foam rollers aren’t only useful for injuries. In fact, foam rolling is a great companion to your dynamic stretching routine before your run as well as the perfect post-run massage, without the price tag.
Foam rolling and self-myofascial release (SMR), also known as self-massage, have both been used by physical therapists for years, but have recently become popular in mainstream fitness. The benefits of foam rolling have to do with the mobility of the fascia, which is a fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of the muscles in our body. As we run, the muscle fibers break down, they rebuild themselves, but in doing so they form a knot above the muscle tissue. Without proper care, the fascia can bind to muscles and nerves, inhibiting normal motion and causing pain.
In a recent study, researchers found an increase in hip range of motion after rolling on the hamstring before stretching, compared to stretching alone. Using a roller has shown to be extremely functional for runners as a means of increasing mobility, flexibility and reducing recovery time between training runs. This technique is especially useful for the iliotibial band (IT band), which runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to just below the knee, is a part of the body that is most susceptible to injury in runners.
Especially during your training seasons when the demand of your weekly running volume is increasing, you want to give your muscles enough time to completely rest between runs. Using a foam roller for 5 to 15 minutes before and/or after your running session can greatly reduce the amount of recovery time needed between workouts.
Rolling after a run can reduce the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, which relieves soreness in the days after your long runs. It can also increase blood and oxygen flow to your legs and glutes, and increasing circulation before a run significantly reduces your chances of injury while running.
Poor flexibility is a common problem among runners due to the demand that constant motion and impact places on muscle fibers. Foam rolling regularly can help flatten out the knots in the fascia and can help increase flexibility in just 4 to 8 weeks, which makes it an excellent part of your cool-down routine.
Ready to get started? Try these six foam roller exercises from Runner’s World.