Foam Rolling - what and why
Many runners have heard of foam rolling, or may have one but aren’t quite sure what they should be doing with it! This blog post hopes to de-mystify things a little and explain why there are a useful tool in your runners tool kit!
Foam rollers, first and foremost, allow to give yourself a bit of a massage. They can gently stretch out your muscles, help you identify and spots that are tight and sore and also release and stretch your fascia.
What’s fascia? Good question! If you’ve ever seen a leg of lamb (sorry vegetarians and vegans) it often has a white film over the red meat (the muscle). This is fascia. Every muscle, group of muscles, bundle of muscle fibres, individual muscle fibre is covered in fascia. We are covered from top to toe in a sock of the stuff under our skin. It merges into out tendons and ligaments around our joints. It’s important stuff! This can get tight and restricted just a muscles can, so benefits as much from anything you do to stretch out and work through the skin into the muscles as the muscles themselves.
Why do you want your muscles and fascia supple, stretchy and elastic - because this helps with your running form and efficiency!
So it’s sounds useful then, let’s find out more about what you need. I’m a fan of a traditional, cheap, basic foam roller. Literally a tube of fairly stiff foam. Ideally pick one that a little longer than the length of your torso - from the centre of your pelvis to the back of your head - as you can then use it to do some great work on your back and chest too.
The more expensive knobbly foam rollers are supposed to work deeper into the muscle tissue, I don’t find that works so well. So instead I recommend a tennis ball as you can use that far more effectively to work into deeper tight spots. The foam roller itself will only really get into the layer of muscle directly under the skin, and there are many more deeper layers to work through; which is why an experience sports massage therapist is useful!
Basic foam rolling then just involves rolling yourself over the foam roller with the muscle you want to work on the roller. So for the glutes muscles in your bum sit on the roller and roll yourself back and forth!
The important tip is never to roll over any joints or bone, stick to the muscles.
I cover more about what to do with a foam roller and how to use it in this video;