A Beginner's Guide to Foam Rolling
Run faster while staying injury-free
The foam roller: no puppy should leave home without it. Photo by David Roche.
When I first started running in college, I was a 200-pound ex-football player. On those first runs, I looked and felt like an arthritic rhino. I will never forget is just how terrible running can be at first. It gets better, then it gets amazing, then it gets transcendent—but at first, everything hurts.
I went through the progression of maladies. My shins got angry, my knees got irritated, my feet were furious. I ran through it all, until my hip attacked with wrathful vengeance. The ball joint locked up and clicked. I couldn't move my leg.
When my physical therapist found out I didn’t use a foam roller, she said something I will never forget: “If you want to be a runner, commit to foam rolling every day for the rest of your life.”
I bought a foam roller, made myself squeal, and the pain went completely away in three days. I was converted.
Now, I am a 140-pound weakling, but I still use the foam roller every day. I honestly think foam rolling should be taught in schools.
But it’s not taught in schools. So here is a quick tutorial.
Foam Roller 101
Buy the hardest foam roller you can find (most simple models are between $10 and $30). Then, use it after your run every day for 5 to 10 minutes.
I instruct my athletes to use it while watching TV at night, starting a stopwatch and staying accountable to roller time. As an added bonus, most small children, dogs and cats view that as a great time for floor wrestling.
In no particular order, foam-roll these areas: IT bands, quadriceps, hip flexors, groin/inner thigh, calves, shins, butt and low back. Not sure how, exactly, to roll out each of these areas? Here's a quick video tutorial.
Spend time with your foam roller, and you’ll be spending more time on the trails. Roll it, so you can rock it!