While most of us become runners simply because we enjoy the act of running, at some point we realize that running itself isn’t enough to keep us healthy. The title “runner” actually encompasses quite a bit of tender loving care to maintain. In order to keep running, we must spend time each week focusing on recovery. When our recovery is lazy, our running suffers. As time passes, the foam roller has quickly become one of the most popular recovery methods among runners – and I can see why.
Foam rolling is an incredibly efficient way to ease sore muscles and prevent injury.
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Using a foam roller creates pressure against your muscle, thus increasing blood flow to the area. This increased blood flow promotes myofascial release within the muscle – that feeling you get when a tight muscle suddenly releases and “lets go”. Incorporating a foam roller into your recovery routine is a simple way to loosen those tight spots in your muscles after running. These foam rolling exercises for runners are perfect for doing just that.
While many endurance athletes incorporate some foam roller moves into their recovery routine, quite a few athletes are actually missing out on some of the most important foam roller techniques. When completing any foam rolling sequence, it’s important to remember that you need to pause and hold the foam roller against any tight spots. Simply rolling up and down the muscle will never provide enough direct pressure to fully relieve those really tight spots.
For any foam roller exercise, begin by warming up the area.
Slowly roll the foam roller up and down the muscle. Once you begin to notice the pain lessening and rolling starting to feel easier, start paying attention to the spots that are especially tight. When you reach a painful or tight area, pause and hold the foam roller against this spot for 10-30 seconds.
The foam rolling exercises below all work together to form the ideal post run foam roller routine. Completing these moves after running prevents lactic acid from building on the muscle, thus preventing any cramping or sore spots. Drastically improve your recovery by completing these foam rolling exercises for runners at least once a week. Even just 15 minutes will do!
8 Crucial Foam Rolling Exercises for Runners
There are two important angles to focus on when foam rolling the calves: the back of your calves and inside of your calves.
Begin with the foam roller underneath your calves. Slowly move the foam roller up and down your calf, from the ankle to the knee. Pause and hold the foam roller against all of the tight painful spots for 10-30 seconds, allowing time for myofascial release to take place as the pressure brings blood flow to the muscle. This is most effective with more pressure, and can be aided by crossing your opposite leg over top of the leg on the foam roller.
Turn over to face the floor and bend one knee slightly, turning it out to the side. This allows the side of your calve to lie flat on the foam roller. Repeat the process.
While it is unsafe to complete any foam roller moves directly on top of your knee, foam rolling behind the knee and on its sides can be very beneficial.
Begin with the foam roller directly underneath your knee. Slowly run the foam roller up and down (this motion will be relatively small, since you are rolling a small area). Hold the foam roller against any tight spots for 10-30 seconds, adding more pressure by crossing your opposite leg over the leg you are foam rolling.
Turn over to face the floor and bend one knee slightly, turning it out to the side. This allows the side of your knee to lie flat on the foam roller. Repeat the process.
The hamstring is one of the most notoriously tight areas for runners. Place the foam roller underneath your hamstrings. For added pressure and effect, you can cross one leg atop the other, so only one hamstring is on the foam roller at a time. Start foam rolling all the way up and down your hamstring, from behind your knee to your glutes. Pause and hold the foam roller against any tight spots for 10-30 seconds.
The gluteal muscles are some of the hardest working muscles when running. Begin by placing the foam roller directly underneath your glutes. Move the foam roller up and down your glutes, pausing for 10-30 seconds on any tight spots.
Turn over to one side and place the foam roller underneath your hip. Move the foam roller up and down, from your hip bone to the top of your IT band. This position may take a little bit of adjusting; you may have to angle your body slightly towards the floor or slightly upwards in order to get the best angle. The foam roller should be in contact with the sides of your glute muscles.
Hip flexor foam rolling exercises usually require the most work in terms of body position. Begin by facing your body towards the floor, with your hips on top of the foam roller. For the greatest benefit, you’ll want to foam roll one hip flexor at a time. Bend one knee completely and move that leg off to the side of the foam roller. You’ll want the opposite toes to be able to touch the floor, with your knee fully bent. This should allow for one hip flexor to rest entirely against the foam roller. Roll up and down, from your lower abdomen to your upper quadriceps. Pause and hold the foam roller against any tight spots.
The IT Band (Iliotibial Band) is one of the most problematic areas for runners. Lie on your side, stacking your legs one on top of the other. Place the foam roller underneath your IT band (the area on the side of your leg between your hips and knee), and slowly roll up and down. This area is often one of the most painful areas for runners, so make sure you warm up the muscle by rolling the foam roller up and down a few times before pausing. Once your IT band has been warmed up, pause and hold for 10-30 seconds on any tight spots.
Face the floor and place the foam roller underneath both quadricep muscles. Slowly roll up and down, pausing at any tight spots to hold for 10-30 seconds.
Bending your knees, place the foam roller underneath both shins. Plant your hands on the ground slightly in front of you, and use your core to roll the foam roller up and down your shins. Pause and hold for 10-30 seconds against any tight spots.
The great thing about this foam rolling routine is that it is incredibly efficient. In less than 15 minutes with the foam roller you have not only loosened up tight muscles, but have increased blood flow throughout your legs which will prevent any further lactic acid from piling up. Completing these foam roller exercises for runners will help prevent some of the most common running injuries and pain: IT band, shin splits, knee pain, etc. Best of all – these foam roller moves can be completed while watching TV! Spend time recovering each week and your running will thank you.
More Running Recovery Posts:
- The Foam Roller Routine that Will Eliminate Back Pain
- 10 Best Lower Body Stretches for Runners
- Essential Yoga Poses for Runners
- How to Recover from Long Runs