Foam Rolling – A Love/Hate Relationship

Posted on January 31 2018

Ok guys since Valentine’s Day is just a month away I thought I would tell you a little about this 4+ year committed relationship I’ve been in…

It’s been a long road for us and it hasn’t always been easy. I’ll be honest – sometimes I dread the time we spend together but even the best relationships have their rough patches, right? But through it all, the good times and the bad, this relationship has helped me heal and is always there to support me just when I need it most…. I’m talking of course about my foam roller.

If you’re a runner and you don’t have a foam roller whaaaat are you doing? Go out and buy one now. Right now. Go on I’ll wait…got one? Ok now let’s talk…

Foam rolling can be a life (and leg) saver when you’re a runner. It helps increase the blood flow, improving the delivery of well needed oxygen to your muscles during your workouts and helps to relief muscle tension for those sore tired legs post workout. Foam rolling can also help stretch out and lengthen your muscles and decrease recovery time. I personally use my foam roller after every single run and sometimes before a run if i’m feeling especially tight.


Now you know the benefits of foam rolling – how do you pick one?

Foam rollers come in all shapes, sizes and densities and it can be tough to pick one that is right for you. So let’s break it down: The longer the roller the easier it is to use on larger areas (vertically) like your back. *Pro Tip – the longer rollers can also be great for doing ab/core workouts as well.

The smaller the foam roller the easier it is to target smaller areas like your thighs or calves.

As for density, the more dense the foam roller is the more intense the pressure is when your rolling. Some prefer having one, two or even three rollers in their collection depending on the area your rolling. Some runners find that a dense roller can be just too much pressure for certain areas.

So you’ve found your perfect match – now how do you use it?

As a runner I always work out my hip flexors, IT band, hamstrings, glutes and calves but adjust my plan depending on what my body needs. The roller can be great for the upper body and relieving tension in back as well. If you’re looking for a place to start, there are lots of great resources out there, like this article/video collection from Runner’s World, to help you start rolling.

Just remember that rolling is meant for recovery, not to treat an injury. Keep the rolling slow and controlled and don’t roll over the point of pain but around it instead. For example, with IT pain, it’s best to roll the muscles that attach to your IT band (your gluteus maximus and your tensor fasciae latae along the edge of your hip) rather than the IT band itself.

Foam rolling doesn’t always feel fantastic but can be likened to a “good kind of hurt”.  Its ok to work out those pesky knots, but if you spend too long on the same area you might end up doing more damage to the tissue than good. Spending about 20-30 seconds on a sore spot before moving onto the next is a good rule of thumb. Just remember that some mild discomfort is good but you shouldn’t be in any real pain.

Like many, I feel as though my relationship with the foam roller is a complicated one. A love/hate relationship if you will. It has become a big part of my running and recovery routine and I really couldn’t picture my life without it. It just hurts so good.

How do you roll? Share your foam roller tips and experiences in the comments below!