How to Add Foam Rolling to Your Run Routine
Easy to use and inexpensive, foam rolling is one of those secret tools of runners, one that can help you both warm-up before a run and cool-down after a workout. Designed as a self-massage technique, foam rolling allows you to apply pressure to your muscles and fascia (or the connective tissue that encases your muscles, organs, and more).
If you want to start foam rolling, but aren’t sure how, when, or the best moves to make it happen, use this advice to implement it into your run routine.
What is foam rolling and what are the benefits?
Known as a myofascial release technique, foam rolling is a practice that (you guessed it!) involves a foam roller (or a dense cylinder made of foam) to massage muscles and fascia, helping to relieve tightness and soreness and to get blood flowing to the affected area.
Dr Michael Clark, a physical therapist and chief science advisor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine tells Runner’s World that foam rolling can be a valuable part of a healthy runner’s warm-up and cool-down routine. According to Clark, because foam rolling improves circulation, it can prep your body for workout and then help it wind down post-run.
Several studies have examined the benefits of foam rolling. According to a review published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, in June 2022, foam rolling can offer a safe way to enhance performance and recovery. However, this article does point out that we still lack robust evidence on the exact mechanisms that drive these benefits.
In a study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy in 2020, foam rolling was found to reduce muscle stiffness and increase range of motion, particularly when used with dynamic stretching in an active warm-up. The study also found that it could reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS), which is why it’s smart to foam roll immediately after your run or strength-training routine.
Finally, a review published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in April 2022 points to studies that found the practice can increase blood flow and circulation and that it can also help you feel psychologically relaxed — an important component of recovery. Although these researchers also point out the need for more research examining the benefits of foam rolling, they also revealed no adverse affects to the practice. So if it makes you feel good pre or post-run, that’s a win.
The Best Foam Rolling Moves for Runners
When practicing these foam rolling moves, make sure to roll slowly — don’t rush it. When you find a tender spot, pause on that spot (or roll just slightly back and forth and up and down) until you feel it soften or release.
Foam Rolling Moves to Add to Your Warmup
Sit on the floor with legs extended. Place the roller under left calf. Rest right foot on the floor or cross right ankle over left for extra pressure. Use hands to lift hips off floor, then roll from the ankle to below the knee. Rotate left leg in, then out. Repeat on right calf.
2. Outer Quad
Lie on left side with foam roller near left hip. Cross right leg over top of left and rest right foot on floor with knee bent. Using forearm, roll along outer thigh from outer hip to just above the knee. Increase the pressure by stacking legs. Repeat on right side.
Sit on the roller with left knee bent, foot on floor. Cross right ankle over left knee. Lean onto left side and roll forward and back along left outer hip and glute, using left leg to control the pressure. Rotate hips left and right to find the trigger points and knots, then concentrate there for 60 seconds. Repeat on right side.
Foam Rolling Moves to Add to Your Cooldown
Sit on the floor and place roller under thighs. Use hands to lift hips, then roll from the knees to the glutes. To increase the pressure, cross right leg over left and roll one leg at time, turning left leg in and out. Repeat on right leg.
Lie facedown on amat, forearms flat on the floor, shoulders over elbows. Keep right leg extended out to the side, knee bent. Place the roller on inner right thigh area and use forearms and left leg to shift weight back and forth to roll the inner right thigh. Roll from knee to hip. Repeat on left leg.
Lie facedown on mat on forearms with a roller placed under front thighs. Use forearms to shift back and forth to slowly roll up and down from the bottom of the hip to the top of the knee.