Foam Roller Benefits and Tips for Runners and Triathletes

Athletic young woman is holding a foam roller for exercise

The more I read about my running and triathlon training, the more I realize I need a foam-rolling routine. I have a foam roller, but I’m not exactly sure how to use it.

Why should I use a foam roller:

Why should I be foam rolling anyway? Well, to start, some people call foam rolling “the poor man’s massage,” and who wouldn’t want to get a massage any time they want? Massage has great benefits, whether it is done by a qualified professional or by you with your handy, affordable foam roller (which can cost about $10-$30 depending on the size you want). Rolling the muscles in your body will help you relax and de-stress. It will help prevent injuries and it can make you more flexible.

Foam Roller usage?

Every day, according to the article “What Are the Benefits of Foam Rolling” on the FitSugar website: Every. Single. Day. Tim Rich, a trainer at Crunch Gym, says in the article that whether or not you are an athlete, you should be using the roller daily.

Renowned strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle, Director of Elite Conditioning in Boston, Mass., says there really is no universal rule on how often we should be rolling out our muscles. He says, however, that he has his athletes use the foam roller before every work out and afterward if the muscles are sore.

In his article, “Using Foam Rollers,” Boyle says, “Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and promote a better warmup. Rolling after a workout may help muscles recover from strenuous exercise.”

Foam Roller Benefits for Triathletes

Triathlon coach of NEO Endurance Sports & Fitness in Colorado and author of the “Triathlete’s Guide to Race Week,” Nicole Drummer, shares a great basic foam rolling routine for triathletes on USA Triathlon’s Multisport Lab. It gets the whole body: glutes, IT band, calves, lats, rhomboids, adductors and quads. Click the link to see Drummer’s foam rolling routine for triathletes complete with photos.

Foam Roller Benefits for Runners

The Runner’s World website has a great foam rolling routine with accompanying videos. It hits all the major muscles that runners need to take care of: glutes and piriformis, IT band, quads, hamstrings and calves. Click the link to see the foam rolling for runners routine from Runner’s World.

Foam Roller Research & Evidence

With all of the opinions and recommendations out there it is hard to decipher between what is personal preference and what is scientific fact. The website Healthy But Smart has done all of the research for you in their article Do Foam Rollers Actually Work? A Review of the Evidence. Healthy But Smart is a social enterprise dedicated to helping humans make evidence based decisions when it comes to their health.

Do you have a foam roller? How often do you use it?

Yankee Springs Trail Run leads to accomplishment for a Recovering Runner

January 8th, 2012!  A day I will never forget. On a routine run with my son, I tripped and fell and ended up tearing my rotator cuff.  Being a “guy”, I ignored it and tried to rehab it myself… yes I know, I already told you all this with my very first post,  I just wanted to reflect for a second, because THAT dear readers…was one year ago TODAY!

Now…let’s go back one week. Last Monday my wife came home sick with the flu. Which as any couple will tell you, what one gets; the other is soon to follow. Tuesday I went to bed with a scratchy voice and Weds I was in full flu mode. Taking her advice, I started loading up on ZiCam, trying to keep the flu to a minimum.

Yankee Springs Trail Run leads to accomplishment

Saturday, was Go Time!  Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50K. 31 miles of crazy snow covered trails in SW Michigan! I’d love to tell you that I toed the line, blazed thru the trail and set a Course Record…really I would. That honor though goes to 2Toms/Wolfhound Racing Runner Jonathan Clinthorne. Jon is a BioChemical Ultrarunner and ran the 31 Miles in just under 3 hours 50 Minutes.

But back to me…I toed the line…and at a turtle pace….trudged my way thru the first lap (15.5) in 3 hours 12 minutes. After a brief break at the Montrail Running shoe table where I had stashed my gear, (Montrail was the shoe sponsor for the event). I refilled my bottle and headed out for lap 2. According to those that have done this before, once you get back out on lap 2, “you’ve got it”…I’d like to have a little discussion with “those people”.

Mile 20 I caught up with another runner, Chad. Chad was having a tough go at this point, so I settled in with him. His calves were cramping, and as misery loves company at mile 21 my right calf began to twitch. This was a huge concern, but I was determined to get this done. We ran the last 10 miles together 3-5 minutes at a shot until one of us would have a spasm, then we’d walk a minute. The Aid stations had both Gatorade and Coca Cola (as well as water) which confused Chad. I told him to drink the Coke at the station and save the Gatorade for between. (Something I learned from J Clinthorne, about how different sugars break down). I can’t say why, but 10 minutes later Chad’s cramps went away.

The last 3 miles were the hardest by far. By now, I was running a minute and walking a minute simply because my calves were gone and I couldn’t push off at all. Chad returned my early favor and even when he was feeling better, he stayed with me.

And then…there it was, the Finish Line! 7 hours, 3 minutes and change… but I had brought the year full circle! I had finished what I had started before the injury. Not as fast as I’d hoped, but despite the injury, the setbacks I had run my ultra marathon!

Does that mean I’m done? Hardly! I was told by the Doctor and his assistant, it would take a full year before the symptoms are all gone. And in fact, I still feel the point of surgery. But I’m stronger now than I was a year ago. And for the first time since 1996, I can call myself an Ultra Marathoner!


So what’s next? I’m not sure when the next race will be or what it will be, but I can tell you I’ll try to do it right, and I might even get some actual training in beforehand. Or maybe not, but then, what else would you expect from


The Recovering Runner!

From Hills to Ultras for this Recovering Runner

Elation, Aggravation and Agony

Having just finished my first marathon in 10 plus years, I was riding a runners high. Never make big decisions when under the influence of Endorphins… (Someone should make a shirt that says that…). I was pumped.   And now, I needed another challenge…besides running the marathon faster…But at this point, I’m really not concerned with running faster. I’m concerned with reaching full recovery.

At the beginning of the year, you know, before tripping… I had 2 goals. One…I had just completed, running a marathon this year, the other? To run an Ultra marathon. Ultra’s are defined as an race longer than 26.2 miles. When I finished the Screaming Pumpkin, I felt like I had another 6 miles in me, and so, I think I can do a 50k race…but which one?

The Huff was usually run the last weekend of December and that would still get me my Ultra for 2012. But looking 1 week further I noticed another 50K!  Yankee Springs was having a 50K race on January 5th, 2013! This was more enticing for many reasons. I tripped and fell last year on January 8th . Running Yankee Springs would put almost exactly a year out from Shoulder Tear to Ultra! The closing of a near perfect Circle! But even better than that… my 50th birthday falls on the 6th. So I can run 50 kilometers 1 day before 50th birthday!  Yes I know, some of you are probably saying…”But Dave, you need to run 50 Miles ON your 50th Birthday!” (and part of me agrees with you…) But let’s do this one step at a time.

If you promise to let me get away with 50 kilometers the day before my 50th Birthday, I promise to run a 50 mile race later this year! In fact, I’ll even name it for you now! There’s a new Trail race coming to Indiana this spring, the Indiana Trail 100. And yes, they have a 50 mile race… don’t push it people, I’m not ready for 100 miles in one run!

So, no sooner did I fill out my race form for the Yankee Springs than two days later I strained a calf muscle! REALLY?? A Calf Strain???!!! So now I have 5 weeks until my 50K and I’ll need to shut down for two weeks to let this thing heal up so I can fake my way thru a 31 mile race on a mountain bike course, in Michigan in January… anyone think it’ll snow?


But hey, a little strained calf and some snow can’t slow you down, not when you’re…


The Recovering Runner!

Hill Workouts for the Recovering Runner

Hills and The Screaming Pumpkin!

Hills! The “sport specific” running workout! Running hills has so many benefits. Not only do they make you stronger, (remember last week we spoke about Strength training?) but when done correctly, Hills can actually help smooth out your form. There are many ways to run a hill workout and really, none of them are wrong. The trick to running hills is to focus on your form. A lot of people just run hills. They have no thought of how they’re doing them, they just run them. And yes they are gaining some benefits of hill running, but they’re leaving so much change behind on the counter…

If you want to break down the specifics of Hill running, I would suggest reading Running The Lydiard Way  by Arthur Lydiard and Garth Gilmor.


Got time for a personal anecdote on hill running? Sure you do!

As part of my journey to recovery, I started running with a group that met Tuesdays & Wednesdays at Sunset Hill Park in Valparaiso, IN. I had been invited to run with this group many, many times over the last year and figured that it would be nice to meet some new “runner” friends. As I travel quite a bit thru the week, I managed to meet at least once a week on one or the other days. The first time out there the hills killed me! But I was determined not to let them beat me!

I started getting stronger, really fast too. I was really surprised how the hill work was making me stronger. I decided to get their early one day. So after dropping my son off at school, I headed to the park early and got 5 miles in before the group met. It was a short day for them as they were all tapering for the Chicago Marathon. I ended up with 8 miles…of hills. My longest hardest work out since surgery! The next week I met a couple of the runners an hour early again and got 12 miles in that day! I was really pumped! And then I let it get to me…

When I got home I emailed a customer…and asked him if I could still get in his marathon the next weekend! I figured that since 2Toms was sponsoring it and I needed to be there…I should just run it…

So 200 total miles from surgery with ONE 8 mile and ONE 12 Mile run under my belt… I jump into Running Central’s “Screaming Pumpkin” Prediction Marathon! It’s a 6.55 mile loop thru a graveyard lit with glowsticks in little white bags!

Without going into to many details, I finished the Marathon on what could best be described as a freaking hilly course thru a graveyard! Thanks to the Hill work I did with the Run Club at Sunset Hill, I finished my first marathon in over 10 years and showed that I was halfway back to where I wanted to be… but what else did you expect from…


The Recovering Runner!

CrossFit – helping the Recovering Runner

Faster, Stronger …Skinnier?

Runners come in all shapes and sizes. Why? Well…mostly because people come in all shapes and sizes. There once was a time that if you were “big boned” or “large muscled”…that you were told you’d never be able to run. That running was for the thin. Fortunately those days are gone…mostly because I’m not the skinny kid I was in High School anymore…

More and more people are running later in life. And more and more runners are getting older. We’ve all seen the older runners; the ones that have done nothing other than run their whole lives. They look…well… old!   Why? As the Body ages we lose bone density and muscle mass. And while a Runners heart and lungs continue to be strong and healthy, their bodies start to fold in on themselves.

Fortunately there’s a way to prevent this and even reverse it from happening. It’s called… Strength Training! Yes, I know…you’re a Runner… you Run! But don’t you want to run when you’re 50, 60 even 70… and still look young? Sure you do, that’s one of the reasons we run! To stay fit and ‘young’! And Strength training will help you do it.

Here’s another fun tidbit… you know that physical rehab I was doing way back right after surgery? Yup…THAT my friend, was STRENGTH Training! Strength training not only helps you recover from injuries, but it also helps to prevent common running injuries!

Right about now you’re probably expecting me to launch into a long dissertation of work outs for you. Yes, I could probably do that, but not everyone has access to the same gyms, weights etc. So instead of telling you what to do, I’ll tell you what NOT to do!

Stay away from exercises that focus on isolation. Do you really need to do Quad extensions or Calf Raises? What about Bicep Curls or Triceps extensions? While you can, and yes they do help you get stronger, they’re actually counterproductive to running. I recently attended a running shoe convention for Inov-8 shoes. While it was good, the one thing I took back with me that changed my perspective on working out, was a CrossFit workout with Lisa Mikkelsen. Lisa is a Master Champion and competes at the National level in CrossFit as well as running.

Doing full body exercises will not only allow you to spend less time in the gym, they actually hit muscles you’ll use while running. CrossFit type workouts might be just the thing to get the runner into the gym. Cardio vascular Muscle Training!! If you’re spending more than 30-40 minutes in the Gym, you’re there too long! You want to get in, and treat your Strength Training like you would a track work out. Hit it hard and fast with minimal rest! Keep your heart rate up!

Oh and it’s well documented that Muscle burns more fat and calories at rest. So not only will you still be standing tall at the ripe old age of 70, but you’ll be burning more fat along the way… which for me means eating more pizza!


It might not be running, but strength training is just what the doctor order for…


The Recovering Runner

How John Howard helped the Recovering Runner

Running and Cycling… the Dead legs
So the miles are starting to add up, and fortunately the weather is still warm (at the time this thread takes place…). I’m alternating running days and riding days and feeling good…except for one important thing… MY LEGS ARE DEAD TIRED! During the course of my injury, recovery and new training, I had forgotten how tired a person’s legs could become.

A Lot of Runners don’t Ride and a lot of Riders don’t run. Both believe that in order to perform better at their given sport, you most put all your mileage into that single effort. Runners Run and Bikers bike…and never the twain shall mix… well at least until you start competing in Triathlons. I’m reminded of a story John Howard told many years ago at a Bicycle expo in Chicago. John was an Olympic and US National Road Champion on the bicycle and later went on to win the 1981 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. Before his first Ironman adventure, he was on a training ride when his bike broke down. He proceeded to carry his bike and RUN…the next day he couldn’t believe how sore he was. Running uses muscles that cycling doesn’t…and John found that out the hard way.

Another good thing about fighting thru the tired “dead leg” days, the Cycling days reduces the impact on your legs so that on your running days you’re able to train harder. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Being able to train harder? Because that’s what you need to do to become


The Recovering Runner