Hello!  We’re back from Brazil, and had an amazing time!  I’ll be posting a recap of my trip this weekend, so stay tuned!  Did you get to check out my two Motivation Monday posts, Jillienne’s guest post on marathon training with a group, and Caroline’s guest post on healthy snacks for work, all posted while I was gone?  I hope you enjoyed them! megan and kevin brazil wedding

In the middle of my 29-hour journey back to Dallas, I was thinking why I was excited to get home.  Groceries and my own bed were near the top of the list, but one thing I dearly missed that you may not guess is … my foam roller!  I briefly mentioned my foam rolling habit when I discussed the benefits of compression, but I haven’t yet covered it in detail.  foam roller(this is the version I have from Amazon – I think any are fine, although I recommend the “high density” versions)

I first got my foam roller when I was having piriformis issues (basically … a pain in the butt, literally), and since then have relied on it consistently.  I believe my foam roller is one of the most critical pieces of equipment for keeping my body healthy, strong, and injury-free, and it’s one of the first things I recommend to new runners or runners increasing their mileage.

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is an easy way of performing myofascial release on yourself.  In basic terms, it’s a somewhat painful (but often in the “hurts-so-good” sense) way to deeply massage your muscles and release tension in the fascia (connective tissue) that is hard to reach.  Foam rolling helps athletes work out the small knots that build up from exercising, injuries, and even day-to-day “wear and tear” like sitting for long periods of time. foam-roller-it-band-exercise-300x186(picture source)

What does foam rolling help with?

For me personally, reducing soreness from my workouts and speeding up recovery time are enough to encourage me to foam roll regularly.  However, many cite various benefits from foam rolling, including:

  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased range of motion (allowing you to perform exercises more efficiently and pain-free)
  • Increased blood flow
  • Decreased muscle tightness/ stiffness
  • Reduced knots
  • Reduced pain/ soreness

One 2014 study showed that, while athletes who foam rolled did not experience increases in performance, their reduction in fatigue, soreness, and exertion after foam rolling was significant.  Another study by the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research showed an average of 7-10 degrees of improved knee flexion after just 2 minutes of quadriceps foam rolling.

How do I use it?

While many suggest foam rolling both before and after exercise (as a warm-up and cool-down), I haven’t yet gotten into that habit.  Instead, I spend about 5 minutes every single night when I am home, right before bed, doing a “routine” of full-body foam rolling that keeps me healthy and happy.  Although it hurts a lot when you first start foam rolling, it becomes much easier and less painful with time, and I now crave the deep release that I get from my nightly foam rolling sessions!  Each night, I roll my back (you’ll hear a lot of popping!), my left glute/piriformis, left hamstring, left calf, right calf, right hamstring, right glute/piriformis, left IT band, left quad, right IT band, and right quad.  Here are some videos of all the exercises I do (just click on the body part you want to see, like “back,” for the link to the videos):

Back (I do a combination of the 1st and 3rd exercises here, with my hands behind my head, then pause and do the 2nd exercise) Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.54.44 PM

Glute/Piriformis Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.44.41 PM

Hamstrings Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.57.31 PM

Calf Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.56.48 PM

IT Band (most painful, but probably most effective as well)Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.55.59 PM

Quads (my favorite!) Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.58.23 PM

So tell me in the comments … Do you foam roll?  What is your “trick” to recover more quickly from exercise?

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27 Comments

  1. Angela Nadler on February 19, 2014 at 7:03 am

    I foam roll twice a day!!! Love, love foam rolling:) we always try to leave room in our suitcases for it as well. I get withdrawls if I don’t use it daily. When we traveled to Ecuador we realized the athletes didn’t have access to one so we left ours with them. Enoch showed them a great routine for runners and they absolutely loved it.
    Angela Nadler recently posted…Breakfast ParfaitMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      That is SO nice of you guys, Angela! I love that story and I’m sure they were so glad to get the foam roller!

  2. Bre & Ree on February 19, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I recently bought my first foam roller back in October and have only used it a couple times. Really it’s just been because I’m not sure exactly how to use it. I’ve been meaning to look up exercises for the longest time, so I was thrilled to see your post. Saved me a google search;) Anyway, thanks so much for sharing and after my hefty leg workout today, I think I’ll try it out tonight!
    ~Bre
    Bre & Ree recently posted…super easy paleo split-pea soupMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      I’m so glad to hear that, Bre! You can definitely find more extensive exercises, but this routine works so well for me and is short enough that I actually stick to it every night. Let me know if you end up dusting off that foam roller – you won’t regret it!

  3. Michael Anderson on February 19, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I never have used a foam roller, though I hear wonderful things about the results. Maybe something I should try … will give it a shot in the spring. As for recovery, I really don’t have a method – just keep moving for a while after my run to naturally cool down.
    Michael Anderson recently posted…Wednesday’s Wandering Mind – More Random NonsenseMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      I think that even Mr. Super-bionic-just-runs-and-doesn’t-do-anything-else could benefit from a foam roller :). I hope you try it!

      • Michael Anderson on February 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm

        Hey – I heard that! 🙂

        I think there are likely many things I could do that would improve my overall performance … and recovery practices like foam rolling are definitely amongst them.

        Thanks again for all of the cool links and pointers in the post – loads to learn as always!
        Michael Anderson recently posted…Five Things Friday – Why You Want a Tea PartyMy Profile

        • Megan Lyons on February 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm

          Haha, I truly didn’t mean for that to be as snarky as it now looks when I re-read it. Was meant in an admiration sense – you rock your running in a way that I don’t think is sustainable for most people (my husband aside) and it’s super impressive!
          Megan Lyons recently posted…Healing Vegetable SoupMy Profile

  4. cottercrunch on February 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    wohhh i need to do this today! hurts so good

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Hope you ended up getting out the foam roller! All of us runners/ athletes are a little crazy in craving something that hurts, but it’s such an awesome hurt!

  5. Francesca on February 19, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Ahh… me and the foam roller have a beautiful relationship! I use after runs and just recently started using it before as it seems to help with circulation and minimizes the need to use after a run. Thanks for the post 🙂 -xo-
    Francesca recently posted…Organic Grab-and-Go Breakfast SandwichesMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      Glad to hear that you’re using it before and after runs, Francesca! That’s the way we’re all “supposed to” do it! You may just inspire me to try it :).

  6. Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit on February 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I’m new to foam rolling and it’s still a love/hate relationship! I love rolling my back, but quads are so painful!!
    Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit recently posted…Dose of EndorphinsMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      I think the love/hate relationship will last a while! I hate to say it, but the fact that your quads hurt so bad probably means that you really need it – that’s like me and the IT band! Keep it up!!

  7. Gary on February 19, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Welcome back to the U.S.! First, I enjoyed each of your guest posts and please thank the bloggers for their contributions to my knowledge base. I am already in love with the compression socks you touted several months ago. For a poor slob who has been running for 50 yrs., these are the greatest things since sliced bread (whatever that means?) If these roller pieces are even half as beneficial as the compression socks after (or before) a workout, I want to know how I buy stock in the maker’s company! You always have such educational and innovative items on your blog. Thank you. – Gary

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      Thank YOU, Gary! Now I know what to get you for your birthday :). I’m really glad you’re enjoying the compression socks! And as always, I appreciate the support so much.

  8. Lisa @ Running out of Wine on February 19, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I love foam rolling! I usually foam roll once a day, in the evenings. It really hurts (in a good way!) when I roll out my quads, hips, and glutes. My favorite ways to recover from hard workouts are compression, ice, and foam rolling!
    Lisa @ Running out of Wine recently posted…Crock Pot Turkey Veggie LasagnaMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      I do once a day in the evenings, too, Lisa, and also rely on compression + foam rolling for my recovery. I’m not as good at ice unless I have an injury or something nagging that could potentially turn into an injury – I used ice baths for my first couple of marathons but haven’t been in one in many years!

  9. Amy @ Long Drive Journey on February 19, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Ohhhh the foam roller. I wish that foam rolling alone had been the answer to my problems. It wasn’t, but I noticed a HUGE difference. Once I am really running again, I know it will become my best friend all over again! And I will have to keep doing my PT exercises, of course.
    Amy @ Long Drive Journey recently posted…Just a ThoughtMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 19, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      I wish it had, too, Amy! Sadly, there’s no one thing that is the answer to all of our problems (at least not one that I’ve found), but every little bit helps. Good for you for staying dedicated to those PT exercises 🙂

  10. GiGi Eats Celebrities on February 20, 2014 at 12:48 am

    You really need to teach me foam rolling. I don’t see the benefit at all (well, I do after reading your post, but before hand, NOPE)… My pilates instructor makes me lay on one but it does NOTHING! We never roll it around or anything, I just lay there. It’s weird. LOL!
    GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted…Quiz: What Food-borne Illness Are You?My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on February 21, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      I think you need to teach your pilates instructor to use the foam roller better, Gigi!

  11. Arman @ thebigmansworld on February 20, 2014 at 2:36 am

    Can I say perfect timing? After going back to the gym this week, I’ve felt sore on moves and weights which previously wouldn’t be too evident- I foresee some epic foam rolling soon! Great tips as usual!

    • Megan Lyons on February 21, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Way to go for getting back to the gym!! YAY! Hope the foam roller helps out with the soreness a bit.

  12. Michael Anderson on February 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Aw, c’mon – you have to OWN that snark … 🙂
    Michael Anderson recently posted…Foodie Friday – Paleo and Gluten Free and Allergies OH MY!My Profile

  13. […] Stretch your calves regularly. Even before you show symptoms of injury, stretching your calves after a run is a great idea. Runners often develop tight calves, which can lead to a variety of injuries down the road. Runners should be stretching both the gastrocnemius and the soleus, and I recommend a combination of simple stretches (like these two) and foam rolling for the calves (see the benefits of foam rolling here). […]

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