The Benefits of Foam Rolling for Runners

Ask any runner what the best way to work the kinks out of a muscle after a run and they will agree: foam rolling. There are so many benefits of foam rolling! Every runner should have a roller in their bag of tricks.

What Does it Do?

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial technique. Myofascial massage is when you apply pressure to parts of the body that are sore. Some individuals see a massage therapist for this type of pressure. Others find that spending time with the foam roller does the trick.

foam rollers types

Foam rollers can be made in different sizes and of varying materials.

Low-density foam rollers are the lightest of the rollers. These are most commonly used if you just have some mild muscle soreness after working hard or a challenging workout. If you sit on one of these they “smoosh” down quite a bit.

Medium-density foam rollers are somewhere in-between the light and firm. These are a good fit for someone who isn’t quite sure which is the best fit.

Firm foam rollers are just like it sounds, much more firm. An excellent choice for those who are jumping from one challenging workout to the next, a firm foam roller can speed up recovery time and keep you in the game.

Short foam rollers are shorter than normal ones and can be light or firm. These are made smaller to help target smaller muscles. They are also handy for traveling or tossing into your gym bag.

Bumpy foam rollers have ridges or bumps and are made to dig into those sore muscles. Since they dig right into the trigger points, they tend to result in a deeper tissue massage.

Why is Foam Rolling Good For You?

Foam rolling has many benefits. First, it can work out sore muscles. Putting pressure on muscles impacted by difficult workouts can often help work those kinks out.

Rolling can also improve circulation. Because rolling gets the blood flowing, this will result in better recovery to that area.

Since rolling breaks knots up, it can help you bounce back more quickly from one challenging workout to the next. Runners who foam roll religiously often find they bounce back faster.

Is It Okay To Foam Roll Every Day?

Not only is it okay to foam roll every day, but many athletes also swear by it for recovery and to keep them healthy and running.  Just like proper warm-up and stretching, rolling can become an integral part of your daily regiment.

foam rolling for runners

Wondering if you can foam roll too much? Most physicians and physical therapists agree that while you cannot roll too much, you can be too aggressive. If what you’re doing hurts a lot, you’re probably either using too dense of a roller or pushing too hard with your body weight.

Remember that soreness is normal but actual pain is not.

Foam Roller Exercises for Runners

Although there are many exercises for runners, here are a few key ones. When it comes down to it the important thing to remember is just to target the area where you are experiencing discomfort.

foam rolling exercises

If you are rolling and find a tender spot, slow down and focus on that area. Foam rolling for runners:

Calves – Sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, put the roller under one calf and bend the opposite knee, bringing that foot about even with the knee of the leg you are rolling. Placing your hands flat, behind your back to brace yourself, roll your body backward and forward, rolling the calf muscle.

foam rolling for calves

Hamstrings – With both legs straight out in front of you put a long roller under your hamstrings. Place both hands flat behind your back. Balancing on your hands, roll back and forth across the roller (If your roller is not long enough to roll both hammies, you can do one at a time using the same motion described).

foam rolling for hamstrings

Quadriceps – Put the roller under your quads, legs straight. Place your arms beneath you in a plank position. Move your body weight forward and back, causing the roller to move under your quads.

foam rolling for quadriceps

Knee – Foam rolling for runners knee is often an IT band issue. You want to put the roller under your hip as you rest your weight on your elbow. Roll from hip toward the knee.

foam rolling for knees

Does Foam Rolling Help Build Muscle?

Foam rolling in and of itself does not build muscle. However, if you consistently use a foam roller, you will find that your recovery allows you to complete workouts with greater reliability and intensity.

Since the biggest hindrance to athletic improvement is a lack of consistency, anything you can do to help keep yourself consistently completing the workouts to fidelity is likely to help you improve.

Sure, a foam roller won’t make your muscles bulge. But the little piece of magic will aid in recovery.

Other Types of Rollers

There are other types of muscle rollers for runners that bear mention.

  • Massage sticks with steel ball bearings.
  • Marshmallow sticks – these have marshmallow shaped plastic “balls” that rotate.
  • Ball rollers – this has golf ball size balls that roll across the stick.
  • Stainless steel ball with handle – this is meant to be frozen or refrigerated so you can have cold and pressure
  • Heated foam rollers – these are nice when you want a little bit of warmth with your rolling experience. You heat it up in your microwave.
  • Travel stick – at just 17 or 18 inches long, this one fits perfectly in your gym bag and is great for traveling!

If you have been on the fence about foam rolling, we suggest you give it a try. Start with a medium-density roller and begin with just a few basic exercises as suggested above. If you have an aching area (like your back), hop into YouTube and find examples of how to roll that body part.

If you make rolling a steady part of your workout regiment you likely won’t regret it!

Five Different Types of Foam Rollers

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