Your calves are so stiff you almost feel like you’ve got peg legs. You feel an awkward limp coming on after every run because that area on the outside of your quad – or your knee – is killing you (that’s called the IT band – Iliotibial band, for you anatomy freaks). Or, maybe you’ve got some serious trap tightness from that killer shoulder circuit…any of these sound familiar?
We all get “trigger point” tightness, from either overusing a muscle or wear and tear over time. Runners like me tend to get these knots in places like their calves (pretty sure I’ve got chronic calf issues), hamstrings, quads, and the IT band. SO. I’m here to convince all of you that the pain and stiffness you experience, well, it CAN GET BETTER. That the way to get un-kinky is just one funny looking movement away. How? The amazing, fantastic, magical foam roller…
For those that aren’t familiar, a foam roller is about the size of a large PVC pipe and can be one foot to three feet long. You literally “roll” your muscles back and forth across the muscle, putting all of your weight into the directed area. Need a visual? Think of a rolling pin ironing out knots in dough, and those knots are the same as the crap built up in your muscles…kinda gross. Also kinda cool.
The idea is that these pesky muscle knots are best relieved through direct, intentional pressure from your body weight (note that tears, breaks, and fractured joints/muscles/bones should NOT be a reason to use a foam roller). This is not exactly a pleasant experience, nor does it look graceful, but the tingly satisfaction you feel after a few back-and-forth rolls is just ohhhh soooo good. So just grit your teeth and bear it.
– A great addition to your warm up AND warm down regimen
-Increased muscle recovery
-Breaks down scar tissue
-Feels really, really, really painful…and then really, really, really good.
So how exactly do you use the thing? Take your calves for example:
1. Put the roller under a calf.
2. Rest your other foot on the floor, keeping your weight bearing on the calf atop the foam roller.
3. Roll from the ankle to below the knee. Rotate the leg in, then out, getting the outsides of your shin, your achilles, and your soleus. Stack ankles to add pressure.
You can do the same thing with your hamstrings, your quads (you’ll be facing downward on top of the foller), and your back.
MORE SAMPLE EXERCISES (in pretty pictures):
I recommend about 45 seconds or so on each tight spot, rest, then go once or twice more over. The best places to purchase these lovely DE-kinkefiers are sporting good stores like my personal heaven, Sports Basement, gyms (like Crunch), or online at Amazon of course. My favorite is The Grid.