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Injuries and Treatment

Self Massage for Runners on the Road

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“We seriously hate you now!” My legs screamed heated words from an overdose of vert (2,400 feet in a mile along a slickrock ridgeline). They quivered each time I stepped my right foot on the clutch.

Desperate for a quality sports massage, I drove from the canyons of Southeast Utah all the way to Boulder, Colorado. Once in the promised land, where a blue massage table lay waiting, my massage therapist Aaron Lange suggested something unheard of before digging into the knots in my tight calves: “Do you have a car buffer in the Jeep?”

I laughed. The Jeep is so encrusted in red desert dust and mud that it isn’t even yellow anymore.

“It can really help your recovery out on the road,” Aaron grinned as he pulled out the green contraption, plugged it in an outlet and brought it whirring toward my legs. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry or run away. However, what seemed like a very bad idea actually sent my calves into a state of bliss.

First he used the buffer’s flat end to “warm up” my calves before tilting the buffer on it’s spinning edge to dig into the deeper adhesions and knots. I immediately offered to buy the buffer off him. (No, I still have not washed my Jeep.)

Living on the road teaches you to be creative, especially when you are posted up somewhere wild, hundreds of miles from the nearest sports massage. Whether you’re a dirtbag runner like me looking to multi-task and save room (and money), or a weekend warrior planning your next road trip, use these car maintenance tools to give your “wheels” a tune-up along the way.

Buff It Out

A simple car buffer can be purchased at Home Depot for about $25. However, the most important and challenging accessory to come by while travelling is an outlet to plug it in. As a result, the car buffer is also a great tool to make new friends at gas stations and McDonalds parking lots.

When your buffer is on and spinning, apply gentle pressure to the muscle belly of the area you are treating and lightly move it up and down to warm everything up. “This kick starts myofascial release and helps pump new blood flow into your leg muscles to help speed up the recovery process,” says Lange.

The feeling can take some getting used to, and you can make it as intense as you’d like. For the true masochists out there, tilt the buffer on its edge and apply pressure to the areas that are tighter or contain knots.

The author “scrapes” her IT bands with a windshield scraper. Photo courtesy Morgan Sjogren.

Scrape Your IT Bands

It may seem pointless to keep a windshield ice scraper in your car year-round unless you are hitting the high country (word is the Sierra snowpack will stick through summer). But windshield scrapers are also amazing for loosening up a tight iliotibial (IT) band.

Use the scraper as you would a typical hand-held massage tool, and rub it along the top, middle and bottom edge of those bands till they feel loose enough to dance up the trails again.

The author “rolls out” with a spare lug nut. Photo courtesy Morgan Sjogren.

The Lug Nut Wrench Gang

I have a dozen or so spare lug nuts and lug-nut wrenches rolling around in the back of the Jeep “just in case.” I have never used them for the Jeep, but I have used them to keep my feet healthy.

Unlike rolling my feet on a tennis ball, the nuts and wrenches provide a nice metal edge to really work tight areas. Their small size allows me to target each section of my foot—even my toes.

For prime recovery, especially during long road trips and/or heavy training blocks, be sure to put your legs through this routine at least once a day followed by some stretching.


To lengthen tight calves, prop your toes against one of your car’s tires, leaving your heel on the ground. For a hamstring stretch, lift one foot onto the hood or the trunk, with the leg straight out in front of you.

And don’t be shy. Sure, people might stare as you pull over and take a car buffer to your quads. But your legs will be singing as you blaze down the highway towards the next trailhead.

Morgan Sjogren runs wild with words anywhere she can get to with her running shoes and a pen! Follow her adventures, writing and trail racing on Instagram  @running_bum_ and her blog: