If you are a runner you most likely have heard of the foam roller. But what is it and why is it important?
Typically new runners do not require the foam roller, but it is still a good idea to learn about them. Most new runners will experience (hopefully not though!) shin splints and runners knee. As more experienced runners tack on more miles, their muscles tear at the microscopic level (that is okay- they repair, thus getting larger.) However, some runners experiences knots in the muscle (where the muscle tear is repairing, but has built up). Here is where the foam roller comes in handy.
The most common injuries seen in experienced runners are muscle knots or trigger points. These injuries start as very minor micro-tears. However, a repetitive tear-and-repair cycle causes a knot or a trigger point to develop. The runner then starts to experience pain and stiffness in the area. Common trouble spots include: the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip region, IT Band.
Foam rollers are inexpensive and can be purchased at most department stores (I got mine at Target for under $12). They are definitely cheaper than getting a massage on a weekly basis.
The purpose of the foam roller is to break up the knot. It is best to use a foam roller several times a week, or else the knot will most likely return.
I use my foam roller primarily on my hamstrings, calves, and IT band.
Rolling my hamstrings
Rolling my calves
Here is an example of how to use the foam roller on your IT band:
Foam rollers work by using the body’s natural response to pressure. As you roll over tight spots or trigger points, the muscle relaxes. For especially tight spots, applying constant pressure might work better than rolling back and forth.