Friday, 20 January 2012

Janathon day 20: A forgotten costume = foam rolling

I planned a chilled out relaxing night in the Jacuzzi and steam room but first I had to work for it. I hate feeling beaten and I’m determined to get over this hatred of the treadmill. As I have mentioned previously in this post, I have chosen to train without music. I tend to do most of my runs outside and as I said in yesterday’s post, I love enjoying the sights and sounds of the outdoors. The reason I find the treadmill so painful is because it is excruciatingly boring.
I decided to spice things up with some music in the form of one of my old garage albums and it was the best idea I’ve had all year. Don’t get me wrong, being in the gym on a Friday night isn’t the coolest thing ever but my old school music livened up the session more than you could ever imagine. The familiar sound of tunes I used to dance to when I was in my teens gave me the edge to keep pushing through, with a beaming smile on my face.
 It was still really difficult and I was absolutely dripping with sweat but the music just made it all the more pleasurable. I love the way music can trigger great memories and as if by magic, when I took my earphones out and stepped off the treadmill, the Paris half marathon theme tune was on. It was the song that was played as we all crossed the start line (Barbra Streisand by Duck Sauce) and I can’t help but smile and get a good feeling when I hear it. It takes me back to the excitement and anticipation of the big day, my first ever half marathon.
After a hot and hard 5k I really felt like I deserved a wallowing session in the Jacuzzi and a stretch in the steam room. The sheer devastation when I realised I had left my costume on the radiator! I couldn’t believe it and felt really hard done by because I pushed hard to complete my fastest 5k in a long time. My calves and shins were sore and were screaming for a massage and the jets in the spa pool would have worked perfectly. I left my boyfriend to relax and headed back up the stairs to the gym for a stretching session.
As a qualified sports massage therapist, I am aware of the benefits of stretching but I have to confess, I don’t always dedicate as much time as I should which is probably why my legs are feeling tight. I did some work on my glutes first followed by a little planking and then headed for the foam roller. If you haven’t used a foam roller and you enjoy running, then I seriously recommend that you consider giving it a go. It is simply a large cylindrical foam roll, as the name would suggest.
The foam roller is a great tool for lengthening and elongating muscles, and they are especially helpful for runners who are suffering from tight and fatigued muscles. When used correctly, they can help you to avoid sport-related injuries by conducting self myofascial release, which can work in a similar way to a massage. The roller is effective on different areas of your body and you can use your body weight to apply pressure to sore muscles.  You can control how much pressure you apply to the tissues that you're working on, and you can locate and focus on areas that are problematic. It allows you to apply deep pressure to areas that may otherwise be difficult to stretch.
It’s not a replacement for proper stretching, warming up or cooling down, but it can be used as a tool to limit soreness and tightness.  I will warn you, much like a sports massage, it is not particularly pleasurable but it does definitely help to relieve sore legs and prevent injury.
The iliotibial band (IT band) is one of the areas most susceptible to injury in runners. It is the band that runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee. You can use the foam roller on this area by rolling across it, slowly back and forth towards the top of the leg, particularly focusing on the quad where it meets the IT band and using your body weight to apply more pressure. This will cause you to make ugly faces and strange noises but your legs will thank you. It can also be used on other areas of the body such as the glutes, calves and the piriformis, all areas that can become tight in runners. Have a look at these videos (courtesy of which do a great job of showing you how to use the roller in some of these key areas.
A hard run accompanied by some decent tunes, followed by a stretching and rolling session has left me feeling great on day 20 of Janathon. I would recommend the use of a foam roller during training but I would also highly recommend going for regular sports massage as a means of preventing injury.  I am not saying this simply because I am a massage therapist but because I truly believe in the benefits however, I will delve more deeply into the benefits of massage in another post.


  1. Like you I prefer taking in the sounds of the real world, so don’t listen to music when running… or run in a gym. Your information on foam rolling was really interesting and useful… thanks for that. I’ve read bits about it and as I have short calf muscles and achy legs, should give it a go. I’ve only been in my gym’s jacuzzi once, but find swimming massages my legs back into shape. Keep up the good work :)

  2. Isn't it amazing how music brings back memories - most of the music I have on my ipod is relative to a time in my life which is uplifting.