That weird cylindrical piece of equipment lurking in the corner of the stretching area at your gym shouldn’t be ignored. Foam rolling is an excellent way to work out your kinks and improve core strength and balance.
SheKnows is training for our first half marathon at the P.F. Chang’s Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Half Marathon in January and we’ve recently learned the importance of a foam roller. As one our team members said, “It’s a godsend.”
To get started, just grab that foam roller and roll away! The idea is to pinpoint your sore muscles with a form of self massage. Just avoid rolling directly over any major joint — like your knee, hip, shoulder or elbow — and be ready for a little pain. It shouldn’t hurt, like an injury, but when you find a tight ball of muscle that needs to loosen up, you’ll definitely feel it!
Mid to upper back
Lean back against the foam roller so that it’s positioned on your mid back. Lift your hips to place more pressure on your back and use your heels to slowly pull your torso toward your feet, allowing the foam roller to roll up your back toward your neck. Stop right at shoulder level and reverse the movement, rolling back and forth for about a minute. You may support your neck with your arms if you’d like — just don’t allow your neck to flop back.
Runners and cyclists are particularly prone to deep tissue tightness in the legs, hips and back. To help loosen up the quads, get in a plank-like position with your foam roller situated just above the knee. Using your toes and elbows to push and pull your torso, gradually roll the foam roller across your entire thigh from your knee to your hip. If you find a particularly sore area, stop and just allow the foam roller’s pressure to work on the tight spot. Continue rolling the quads for about one to two minutes.
Runners are known for having extremely tight iliotibial bands, or IT bands. This thick band of muscle fascia runs from the hip along the outside of the thigh, inserting just below the knee to the tibia. To help prevent IT band syndrome and corresponding knee problems, foam rolling is particularly crucial. Target the IT band by lying on your side in a modified side plank with the outside of your hip resting on the foam roller. Cross your top leg over the front of your bottom leg and place your foot on the ground for stabilization. From this position, slowly roll the outside of your hip and thigh across the foam roller, starting just below the hip and ending just above the knee. Spend about one to three minutes continuing to roll on one side before switching to the opposite side.
The glutes consist of three large muscle groups that can be tough to stretch out using traditional stretches. The foam roller can really help you loosen up this area. Sit on the foam roller and cross one leg over the other. Lean toward the leg that’s crossed, using the same-side arm to help you balance, and shift your weight onto the large muscles of your glutes. Gradually roll your hips to work out the kinks on one side before switching to the opposite side.