Mobility is Key
As runners, one of the most important things we can work on is mobility. Our body is an engine, a beautiful and complex engine whose parts all work together. We runners like to push our engine to its max, and often ignore the signals to slow down. We run through soreness, tightness, and pain, thinking we are invincible, until one day the engine breaks down.
If we had slowed down sooner, we might have noticed a series of warning signs leading up to the injury: run, tighten up, lose mobility, keep running, keep running, lose more mobility, keep running, and BOOM! You’re injured.
Runners MUST work on mobility. If one part of the body is not fully functional, the whole engine is affected. To stop the cycle and run longer and healthier, we have to treat our engines well, releasing the daily tension in our muscles and fascia.
Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles. It’s a spider-web matrix of collagen fibers that supports your muscles and absorbs shock. And it’s everywhere! From your head to your toes. When you move, your fascia thickens and shortens and can become restricted after lots of movement, forming sore spots called trigger points that inhibit range of motion and can lead to injury.
Stop reading for a second. Feel around your calves, hip flexors, and quads. Feel a tight, slightly painful spot? That’s a trigger point. That needs to go.
So how do I get rid of trigger points?
Foam roll! Foam rolling, also called myofascial release, uses the pressure of your own bodyweight to work out and release the soft tissue, freeing up the fascia. Foam rolling is a healthier way of stretching and releasing the muscles. It increases circulation and flexibility, enabling you to run and perform with increased mobility.
Foam rolling is a fantastic way to treat your body to a nice massage each day. Spending 1-2 minutes SLOWLY rolling over each large muscle group will help decrease your risk of injury and make you feel a whole lot better!
But make sure you are foam rolling correctly. If you have a particular spot that always hurts, say your IT band, don’t jump straight to beating up that side of your leg with aggressive rolling. Foam roll the areas around the area of pain. Most often trigger points develop from problem areas in other parts of the body. For example: bad shoes can create aches in your knees or hips or tight hip flexors are because of a weakness in the glutes.
Foam Roll Your Butt Off
Here are a few suggested foam rolling techniques to get you started. For each exercise, repeatedly and slowly, roll the left side, middle, and right side of each muscle to get all angles. Stay a little longer on tight trigger points (but not too long to bruise!). Roll in slower motions to release the fascia. Foam roll as a warm up before a run, a cool down to stretch out, or after a long day of work to release stress.