Rub it Out!
Just to be clear, I’m talking about your legs. What did you think I was talking about? This really isn’t that kind of blog…although that is my area of research, broadly speaking of course, so I’m sure we can work it in somewhere. Wow, the puns just keep coming, don’t they? Ok, seriously, it’s time to get down to business. Ahh, I just can’t help myself!
With Mother Nature finally beginning to relent (knock on wood) and clear away some of the debris from the roads and sidewalks, my runs are once again much smoother and less treacherous under foot. Winter running is definitely excellent training for my legs, and it helps keep me in shape for trail running, but I’ve definitely noticed that it can be harder on my calves, thighs, and IT bands. The uneven surfaces, ice patches, sand, salt, and pot holes all present additional stress on my legs in various ways. On the plus side, recent research has found that runners are more likely to run on their forefoot on hard surfaces, so perhaps the winter running has helped my forefoot strike consistency. These facts have made me focus a lot more on foam-rolling my legs and making sure I am stretching properly after my runs.
I will admit with a modicum of guilt that I have historically been pretty inconsistent when it comes to using the foam roller on my legs. Intellectually, I know it can help sustain my legs and ensure that I am doing my best to prevent injuries. However, when I get back from a great run, I am usually looking to jump straight in the shower, and then relax. The last thing I want to do is sit around in my sweaty clothes and roll out my legs (even if that’s exactly what I should be doing!). However, the intense pain I’m met with on the occasions when I do roll my legs out makes a pretty clear case for consistency. Thus, I’ve been trying to focus on using the foam roller when I get out of the shower, as well as using a more dense rolling stick before bed. We affectionately call the roller massager the “pain stick” in honor of the screaming and tears it elicits during a vigorous massage. It can be hard to remind myself that it is for the best sometimes, especially when I’m screaming into a pillow, but my legs always thank me the next day!
There seem to be quite a few specialized foam rollers on the market claiming to provide added benefits due to different contoured forms or raised portions. In my experience, and in speaking with several PT friends, the only benefit is in your head and in your smaller bank account. The simple white foam roller I have has worked incredibly well, and has proven very versatile for all of the various massage techniques I utilize. I will spare you the detailed descriptions of each of the routines I implement, mostly because Runners World does a much better job, and they include videos as well!
Aside from the foam roller and the pain stick, I try to utilize some simple DIY massage techniques throughout the day to try to keep my legs as relaxed and stretched out as possible. This is especially important because I spend a lot of time sitting in front of my computer. After transcribing interviews for my dissertation for several hours, some stretching and leg massage is a welcome break!
The weather is warming up, and there is talk of 50 degrees by the end of the week, so I couldn’t be happier. I’m going to be ramping up my training in some new ways in the coming months, and experimenting with some new things, so stay tuned, and happy spring!