A dense foam cylinder, not much longer than your arm and just six inches wide, could be the answer to your pain.
This simple tool is used for foam rolling, a self-myofascial release technique that when done properly and regularly can dissolve deep knots and break up scar tissue. It can be particularly helpful to runners and other endurance athletes who struggle with tight muscles and flexibility.
Before you pay for an expensive deep-tissue massage, invest in a foam roller and commit to this 30-day challenge to become a stronger injury-free athlete.
What Is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a form of self massage that breaks up knots, scar tissue and adhesions that naturally occur in the body. The practice improves soft tissue extensibility and recruits your antagonists' muscles to fire properly, says Amanda Edell, a foam rolling expert and certified personal trainer in New York.
By foam rolling on a regular basis, you're able to move more freely and easily when you go to lunge, step up and run. It also flushes out lactic acid that builds up on long runs or workouts and helps your body recover faster.
Many athletes cringe at the foam roller.
"I knew foam rolling was good for me. I was just lazy," says gym goer Maile Proctor. "I didn't to take the extra time to roll, but once I started rolling on a regular basis, I noticed my typical aches subsided and my endurance level picked up a notch or two."
The first few times you foam roll you may experience a little discomfort. Give it some time; that feeling will go away.
30-Day Foam-Rolling Challenge Exercises
Commit to rolling out the five most important muscles for runners for at least a minute a day, totaling 10 minutes.
What you need: Foam roller
Challenge: Foam roll every day.
The hardest part is starting, and sticking, with the rolling. Start with one minute and work your way up. Keep track of how many minutes or rolls you do per exercise on your tracker. This will help you watch your progress. Remember, this challenge is designed to get you in the habit to foam roll every day.
#1: QuadsStart in a plank position on your forearms and have the foam roller underneath your legs. The foam roller should be above your knee. Allow it to move upward toward your hip flexor. The rule of thumb is to try to keep your alignment (hands staying underneath your shoulders) and to roll for at least one minute per muscle or 10 rolls per muscle group.
Start in a seated position with the foam roller underneath your glutes. You're actually sitting on the roller. Pick a side you want to start with first and then lean toward that one side. Stay on that glute for one minute. Switch sides and repeat.
Start in a high-plank position. Place the foam roller vertical so it's aligned with your leg. Externally rotate one leg so you're in an "L" position. This is an extremely tight and often neglected muscle by most athletes, so proceed with caution. Start with the roller near your knee and slowly move inward toward your groin. If you need a deeper sensation, lower down to your forearms. Roll one minute each leg or 10 rolls per leg.
#4 Iliotibial Band (ITB/IT Band)
To begin, lie on your side. Bend your top knee and place your foot on the ground. Straighten your bottom leg. Place the foam roller underneath your bottom leg. Rolling on the ITB can be very painful; this is normal. Start with the roller by your knee and then roll up to the middle of the leg. If it's too painful to roll, just sit in this position. Eventually, the pain will subside and you can roll. Try this for one minute on each leg or 10 rolls per leg.
#5 Hip Flexors
The hip flexors get very tight from running because of the constant flexion and extension of the hip.
Lie down on the ground. You'll want to focus on one leg at a time. Place the foam roller under the quad of the right leg, close to your hip. Lower your upper body to your forearms. If the pain is too much, lift up to your hands. Slowly roll from the hip (upper part of your thigh) to the upper—mid portion of your quad. Roll one minute each leg or 10 rolls per leg.
The Fine Print
- You'll need a foam roller for this challenge. Your gym probably has one, but since you're rolling daily, you may want to make this small, one-time investment.
- You can foam roll anytime during the day. One of the best times to roll is in front of the TV at night. It's better than sitting on the couch.
- Use your tracker and the FaceBook Event to record your daily progress.
Always check with your doctor before you start any new exercise regimen.
Getting Started on The 30-Day Foam-Rolling Challenge:
- Get access to all the trackers by joining the community here.
- For more support and motivation join us on social. Like the 30-Day Challenge Series on FaceBook and/or Follow @30_Challenge on Twitter.
Stay in shape in a fitness class.