Fun With Foam


How did I go 25 years without using a foam roller? And how did I survive training for three 1/2 marathons without falling in love with this awesomely simple device?

Let’s backtrack, shall we?

After running the NYC 1/2 Marathon in March 2010, I realized just how much I liked running, and I seriously upped the ante.

I ran 5 miles almost every morning and frequently did a long run — anywhere from 7 to 12 miles — on the weekends.

I haven’t been giving myself many rest days. I know that’s bad.

And yet, I’ve continued to run my little heart out nearly every single day. Addict, much?

But lately, my knees — my left one, in particular — have been bothering me a bit. Nothing major. In fact, they feel great when I’m running.

When I stop, though, they tighten up, and I’m finally realizing that they are probably fatigued. I’ve become terrified of injuring myself and know that I need to start protecting my body better before I lose all cartilage in between my joints.

I’ve been reading about runners who swear by foam rollers for a while, but I’ll admit that I’ve been totally intimidated by them. I don’t know how to use them and I want someone to show me.

Tonight at the gym I looked up a tutorial online from Running Times magazine and did a simple foam roller exercise.

I worked out my IT bands with this exercise:

And then moved onto my quads:

Those were the only exercises I did tonight for fear of doing too much and injuring myself.

Oh. My. Awesome.

It felt weird at first, and a little painful, but then it felt oh so good. When I got up and went to spinning, my legs felt worked out, loose and immediately less prone to injury.

I know I’m being super dramatic. Two little rolling exercises probably didn’t change my body a whole let yet. But I can’t wait to try out more exercises with the foam roller and learn as much as I can about what it can do for my sore ole’ body.

Santa, is it too late to ask for a foam roller for Christmas? Preferably a lime green one…

DISCUSS: Are you a foam roller fanatic? I’d love any type of feedback about what types of exercises you do, how they’ve helped your fitness and what you recommend. I do plan to seek out a professional at the gym who can give me a breakdown of what to do, but I love hearing from all the real-life runners out there!



0 Responses

  1. Ohh, you gave me a great idea for a Christmas present for me.. I’m calling my husband right now to tell him, ha ha.

    Obviously I do not have one, but I want one. Darn, I should have thought of that earlier. — I am also really intimidated by them. I just wonder how it actually works, and is it actually helpful? I do read a lot of blogs of runners who swear by them though, so they must be worth it. .. Hmm, gotta figure out how to get one of these very soon!

  2. I love my foam roller and use it all the time. I also roll on a softball to get into the pressure points that need extra massage. It helps so much! My training only includes 3-4 runs per week because I start to tighten up and feel fatigued if I add more. The foam roller, yoga, and cross training seem to keep things working. Happy rolling!

  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my foam roller!!! I have a dense black one (found mine pretty reasonably priced online). I recently trained for my first half marathon and used it to help with knee pain also (tight IT bands I guess?). I also use the roller to help with my back and shoulder pain. I roll out my calves/ankles which get super tight after a long run! Can’t wait to hear more about what you discover 🙂

  4. Honestly, my foam roller has allowed me to continue training for my half-marathon. I.aggravated both IT bands over a month and a half ago and have been in pain since. I had intense pain for the first 2 weeks until I bought a foam roller. The best $23 I’ve ever spent. I roll 3-4 times a day (mine get super tight) and I have noticed a significant improvement. I am a foam roller for life! 🙂

  5. I love my foam roller too! I did not believe in them until my physiotherapist started giving me exercises to do with it and it relieved my knee pain! Who would think that rolling your IT band would help your knee!! My foam roller came with a sheet and there are some good exercises on it. I also use a softball for hard to reach areas.

  6. I love my foam roller! I use mine on my IT band, quads, hamstrings, and calves. One piece of advice: the white foam rollers are less dense and break down more quickly, whereas the darker colored ones are harder but last longer.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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