I’ve had a few people ask about my foam rolling routine. I started foam rolling regularly last summer when I was running higher mileage than I had before while following the Hansons’ training plan. I’d always thought foam rolling was something you did when you were injured, but the more I read, the more I learned that foam rolling is good for recovery and injury prevention. I also read an article in Runner’s World that said runners over 40 should foam roll every day or almost every day. When I started it I hated it because it hurts! But the more I did it, the less it hurt.
Today, foam rolling is a critical part of my injury prevention routine, which also includes stretching (dynamic stretching before runs as well as after warm-ups and before speedwork, and static stretches after or later in the day), yoga, and strength training. While I’m not prone to injuries and haven’t had any major injuries since starting to run four years ago, I can’t help but believe these injury-prevention strategies are helping. If I go more than one day without foam rolling, I’ll almost always get an ache or pain, so I really do think foam rolling has helped not only keep me injury-free but also free of minor aches and pains.
How Much, How Long, and When to Foam Roll
I foam roll six to seven days a week between five and 10 minutes a day. I do each leg separately. For example, the how-to videos and images in the links below show putting both calves on the foam roller at the same time. I do just one leg at a time mainly so that I can add the other leg on top for additional pressure. I roll each area 15-20 times. So, I’ll roll 15 times on the right calf and then 15 times on the left calf.
I always foam roll before static stretching or yoga because it increases mobility. But if I’m also doing strength training, I’ll do that first then foam rolling then stretching.
Foam Rolling Tool
I use the Triggerpoint foam roller. I bought mine from my local running store, but you can get it on Amazon: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller with Free Online Instructional Videos, Original (13-inch) (affiliate link). I also have a mini 4-inch (affiliate link) of the same foam roller that I use while traveling.
I’ve been hesitant to share my routine because it doesn’t exactly follow the expert guidance on foam rolling. I’m including that guidance in a resources section below so you can learn it the right way. But I’ll also tell you what I do differently that seems to work for me.
Calves: I do the same as the resources say to except I do each leg separately instead of together.
IT Band and Hips: The official resources say to start at the bottom of your hip on your outer leg and go down to you knee, but I start at the top of my hip and roll my hip as well. Note that per the 4 Mistakes article, you should not do that if you have hip pain because rolling an inflamed area will only make it worse.
Quadriceps: Instead of lying on the foam roller with my face down, I simply sit on the floor and manually roll over my quads. I do this because balance in the “official” position can be tough, and it’s also painful–I think the most painful out of all of the exercises because your full weight is on your quads.
Hamstrings: The official position is to start at the bottom of your butt and roll down to your knee, but I actually start at the top of my butt so that I can roll my glutes as well. This feels so good!
That’s it! It can seem annoying to have one more thing to do, but it’s become so much a part of my daily routine that I don’t mind it. Happy foam rolling!
How to Use a Foam Roller from Runner’s World
Foam Roller Video Series from Runner’s World
The Basics of Foam Rolling from Women’s Running
The 4 Mistakes You’re Making When Foam Rolling (and How to Fix Them) from Runner’s Connect