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?

Bored with Your Training Plan? What To Do

Training Chart – Thanks to Shape.com

Are you training for a fall race? I am. I just started my training plan for my half marathon at the end of November, so it’s still fresh and exciting. But, if you’re like me, when you get about mid-way to your goal race, you start to lose momentum and it’s hard to see the point of waking up before the sun to get miles in.

Here are a few things I do to keep myself engaged in my training.

Start a Blog

Blogging about running really helps keep me motivated. I like sharing with other runners what I’m going through during a training cycle, and getting their feedback. Thinking about what I will write and how I will write about it helps keep my brain busy during runs, too.

Starting a blog is easy and free through services like WordPress.org, WordPress.com and Blogger.com. (If the idea of putting your thoughts on the Internet scares you, get a notebook start a running journal. It’s fun and motivating to be able to look back at the experiences you had during your training.)

Not sure what to write about? Write the thoughts you had while running, what you saw, how you felt. The good stuff is in the details! Knowing you will be writing about your run also helps you take better notice of what’s going on around you.

Download a Book

Some people find happiness in long, solo runs. I tend to get bored. Recently, I discovered podcasts (I know, I’m a little late to the party). I like health and fitness podcasts because I like learning while I’m on the run. Other runners I know download complete books, which reminds me of the Ryan Hall ad that aired during the Olympics. Did you see that one?

Make a New Playlist

Music that gets you excited to run can be very motivating. I used to listen to my running playlist when I wasn’t running and it would make me want to run! Keep your playlist fresh with new music that pumps you up. I love the website Jog.fm. It’s easy to search for new music, sample it and even purchase it. But my favorite feature is the ability to search for music by entering my pace!

Change Your Plan

Maybe your training plan is too intense for you right now. Maybe you are running too much. Or maybe it’s not enough running. There’s no rule that you have to stick with your training plan. Most plans have similar mileage each week, so you can easily find another plan that fits better in your life. Don’t be afraid to switch it up.

Give Yourself a Break

Training plans can be rather monotonous, and most runners are pretty strict about adhering to them. We can burn ourselves out. If you’re not feeling particularly excited about running, you might just need a short break. Taking a day or two off of running won’t hurt your training. Besides, our muscles need rest in order to rebuild themselves – resting helps us become stronger, faster runners. Read more about rest in the Runner’s World articles, “The Rest is Easy” and “Time to Rest?”

What are you training for? What ways do you keep yourself motivated during training? Leave a comment with your answers – you never know when you might be helping someone else out!