Runners and Foam Rollers: Why Every Runner Should Own One

Since I began running, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about different tools that people use to strengthen this, or loosen that.  Being the all-natural, healing machine that I am (thick sarcasm there), I snickered at the thought of buying one of these overly-priced tools that promised to do something that my body could do all by itself.  I had read the book “Born to Run,” so I knew I didn’t need anything but my two feet to run.  These tools were just gimmicks used to make money!

That was until this past week…  For the last few days I’ve been feeling some numbness in my right leg that extends from my knee to my toes.  It’s not keeping me from running, but it sure is awkward running with a dead leg.  I suspect that it’s a pinched nerve somewhere, possibly sciatica (although there’s no pain).  I am keeping an eye on it and if it doesn’t regain feeling by next week, I’ll visit the dreaded doctor.
I thought I’d ask around to see what: A) people thought it was, and B) they thought I should do about it.  Several people told me to go to the doctor.  But even more people told me to get a foam roller to work out the kinks.  Were they serious?  I wasn’t paying $30 – $50 on a piece of tube-shaped foam!
(Evelin with her Foam Roller)

Luckily, the numbness was frustrating enough that I decided to go get one.  I’m so glad that I did!  One of my favorite running blog peeps, Evelin from EvelinRuns (check her out), told me how she’s been using her foam roller to help stretch out and relax her muscles after a good run.  I trusted her judgment and went and got my own.  Within a few minutes of being home, I was sprawled out on the floor like an intoxicated yoga instructor.  I went from plant-based holistic guru, to putting my health in the arms of an oversized pool noodle, in under 30 minutes.  It was an extremely humbling experience.

After watching manyYoutube videos, I learned how to locate trigger points and apply pressure at the right spots to relieve tension and break up knots that formed in my muscles over time.  As our muscles tear and rebuild, over and over again (which is normal), they can develop tight spots that need to be massaged out.  I was surprised at how many knots were in my muscles, and how effective the foam roller was at loosening up these masses.  I’ve rolled my iliotibial (IT) band, calves, piriformis muscles, and glutes, getting deep down to my sciatic nerve. It  feels amazing to be able to give yourself your own massage anytime you want.  It is going to be an everyday practice for me from here on out.

There are several different varieties of foam rollers:  Low-Density (usually white), Medium Density, or High Density (typically black).  They also come in different sizes ranging from 12 to 36 inches.  For runners, you will probably want to go with at least an 18 inch Medium-Density foam roller, as it will provide plenty of room to work on your legs.  The Low-Density rollers break down easier than the latter, giving them a shorter life; I would steer clear of those.

You can purchase a foam roller from almost any sporting goods store, running outlet, or even Wal-Mart.  I would suggest trying a running outlet first, as they would know exactly what you needed.  The prices really do range from $25 to $80, but I can assure you that you will get what you pay for.  And it’s completely worth every penny.  As I always say, don’t put a price tag on your health.  You are worth more than that.  Besides, running is the cheapest sport around.

Have you incorporated foam rolling into your daily regimen?  What are some suggestions that you would give a beginner (like me)?


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