Skip to content

Archive for

Hill Running

Hill running.  You either hate it or you love it.  I doubt there are many people who, when turning a corner and see a long steep incline, see it the same way as they do a nice, long, flat road.  Perhaps if they’ve always lived in a hilly part of the world and don’t realize flat roads exist, maybe….  But for many of us, this is just not the case.  Read more

Advertisements

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

One of my favorite podcasts by far (along with This American Life) is the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.  Ben Greenfield is an endless supply of awesome fitness and nutrition information.  Every morning when I’m getting ready for work, I get my daily dose of Mr. Greenfield and I always learn something new.  Today, a listener had called in with a question about his breathing (or inability to breathe) during his triathlon because he would get so nervous and tense.  In giving him advice, Ben mentioned a relaxation technique that many athletes use to help with the anxiety, muscle tightness, and working through those hard efforts.  It’s called progressive muscle relaxation.   Read more

Kinesio Tape

A few years ago when I started to receive active release therapy, my doctor would apply kinesio tape.  Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptical and saw my bright blue tape as a pretty cool fashion statement at the gym.  I had no idea if it was working, and after one hard gym workout, the tape was falling off.  Fast forward to present day, and now my sports massage therapist is taping me up.  However, his methods are a little different, and three days later, it’s still on.  It literally took him about 15 minutes to apply three pieces of tape exactly right, so now I want to know…

What is kinesio tape? What is it suppose to do? And does it work?

I had trouble determining who exactly developed the technology behind kinesio tape: Dr. Kenzo Kase or Komp (couldn’t find his first name).  However, it does seem that this type of taping has been around since the 1970s, and after first being used primarily by medical practitioners, it then began to be used by Japanese olympians.  Kinesio tape is made of a soft cotton and contains no latex.  It is light, stretchy and has the same thickness as the human skin.  The adhesive is heat activated, so it is important that it is rubbed briskly after application for activation.  Because the tape is made from a soft cotton, moisture is able to dissipate through the material and the tape will usually last about three days.  And perhaps the best thing about kinesio tape is it comes in bright fun colors! Just check out my hot pink tape with my pink toenails…

 


The idea behind kinesio tape is that it allows for more range of motion with less pain than if you did not have the tape.  It also claims to relax overused muscles, reduce inflammation, and the wave pattern on the tape supposedly lifts the skin which in turn improves circulation and takes pressure off of your pain receptors.  Wow – that’s a lot of benefits from one neon piece of tape!  From my experience, I can’t say that I have experienced all of these amazing benefits.  However, great athletes such as Lance Armstrong, Kerri Walsh, and Serena Williams can be seen sporting the tape.  In fact, Lance Armstrong dedicates a page in one of his books to his positive experiences with kinesio tape.

As far as whether or not kinesio tape works for athletes, research is still in its early stages.  One study that I found, concluded the tape did improve immediate pain – free shoulder range of motion, but over an extended period of time, the kinesio tape was no more effective than regular sports tape.  Another study reported that the use of kinesio tape did improve the lower back’s range of motion.  However, if you are looking for some anecdotal evidence, I can’t say that it did much for me.  But I am one person, and what may not work for me, may be great for you.

As more people learn about kinesio tape, I see it on more and more athletes.  And over time, the evidence with grow to either support or not support the claims.  It seems to be a popular preventive measure and remedy, and even if it doesn’t do all that it claims to, at least it’s a pretty color.

 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

The Achilles Tendon

Yesterday Mario and I watched the documentary “Running to the Limits.”  The film chronicles a sedentary drinker and smoker who decides to learn what it takes to train for a marathon like the elites.  His goal is to run the London Marathon in 2008 with hopes of running a sub 2:20 time. Impressive to say the least.  Spoiler alert: if you want to watch the movie and find out how he did, stop reading here.

Unfortunately his two year effort comes to a disappointing end when his achilles tendon prevents him from running the race.  And in fact, it took him 10 months to fully recover from this nagging injury.  But on a side note (in case you want to know how his other races went), he did run a 1:13 half and was on course to run a 2:45 marathon when heat stroke took over.  It’s amazing what one can accomplish in just two years time…

Seeing how hard he worked and how it all came to an abrupt end because of one silly tendon got me thinking:

What exactly is the achilles tendon and achilles tendonitis? How does it get injured? And as runners, how can we prevent and/or recover from these injuries?

The achilles tendon is the largest, thickest, and strongest tendon in the body.  Its purpose is to connect the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone and is used when we walk, jump, and of course run.  Depending on what we are doing, the achilles tendon may be subject to 3 – 12 times a person’s body weight.  In comparing the achilles tendon with other tendons throughout the body, it has a relatively poor blood supply, which studies have shown can prevent adequate tissue repair which in turn leads to further weakening of the tendon.  No wonder so many people suffer from achilles tendonitis…

Regardless of the fact that that achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body, it gets injured, a lot.  I know I personally have suffered from achilles tendonitis, as well as my husband and many of my other friends.  It is a plaguing injury, but fortunately, if we learn to recognize the symptoms early enough and take preventive measures, it can be avoided.  Achilles tendonitis is basically irritation and inflammation of the achilles tendon.  Of course of the obvious cause of injury is too much too soon.  A quick increase in mileage doesn’t allow your body time to repair itself, and since the tendon already has a poor blood supply, this can do much more harm than good.  Your body needs to adapt so no need to up the mileage so soon.  Other causes of injuries can include lack of flexibility, explosive movements (jumps), tight calf muscles, over/under pronation, improper footwear (high heels, too much/too little support, worn out shoes), or simply not stretching before exercise.

Okay, so say you upped your mileage from 40 to 60  miles/week, skipped stretching, and wore high heels all day at work.  Your tendon is inflamed and you are suffering from achilles tendonitis.  Now what do you do? Well, other than eating the anti-inflammatory foods that we talked about yesterday, there are quite a few things that can be done to help with the injury.  First, and this is the one we never want to hear, stop doing the thing that caused the injury.  If that means giving up running for a week, go find a bike and learn to love it.  It will save your tendons and your body from further damage. Next, you need to stretch the calf muscles.  We often times think of the achilles tendon being just at the heel bone, but it begins at your calf so it’s important to stretch that muscle.  Here are some great calf stretches and strength training exercises to get back out the door a little sooner. I think it’s also worth noting the importance of the foam roller.  The foam roller  can help to loosen the calf muscles and break down scar tissue. Yes, it will probably hurt, but it’s all worth it.  Check out this video for some foam rolling exercises to help work out any muscle and tendon tightness:


Some other treatments of achilles tendonitis are inserting a heel insert into your shoe to relieve pressure off the tendon.  Physical therapy is also another option to work on strengthening the tendon as well as the calf muscle.  Perhaps one that we often overlook (or at least I know I do), is ice.  Ice immediately following exercise can help stop the swelling and help the rebuilding process begin.

Update: Also check out this video from Runner’s World for some feet and ankle strengthening exercises along with a good stretch for the achilles tendon.

There are five different grades of achilles tendon injuries and if you ignore the early symptoms,  you could be out for quite some time.  In fact, if you find yourself with a Grade 5 injury, your tendon can actually become deformed!  Grades 1-3 do not really affect your ability to exercise as much as grades 4-5 do.  And once you get to grade 4 or 5, your day to day activities become quite painful and limited.

I enjoyed looking into this topic today.  Yesterday after Mario’s run he was talking about how his achilles tendon was hurting.  Now I feel a little more competent to help him get better sooner =)

Happy Trails, Happy Running, and more importantly, Happy Memorial Day!

Tracie

And on a side note, if anyone would like me to research anything, please email me.  I’m happy to do it! I’ve got a running list of ideas but it is nowhere near the 300+ that I need.  Thanks in advance!

Anit-Inflammatory Foods

The weekend is a time when most people do their long runs, hard workouts, and race.  And if you’re anything like me, you reward yourself for a job well done.  I know for me personally, after a long hard 20 miler, I often times reward myself with delicious not so healthy foods that probably aren’t doing much to help my recovery.  And now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Kara Goucher doesn’t go straight for a soft pretzel followed by a trip to the Cupcake Shoppe after her Saturday long runs.  Yikes, even just typing that makes me want to start apologizing to my body.  Foods can play such an important role in our recovery and getting us back out the door ready to tackle the next run.  So if soft pretzels aren’t then answer, then what is?

Today’s Question:  What are some good anti-inflammatory foods that runners should eat after a hard workout or race?

You would be hard pressed to find a runner who doesn’t know where the advil is in their house.  Often times if we are injured or need to recover after a hard workout, we rest, ice, compress, elevate, and take a few NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  However, are we really paying attention to what we are putting in our bodies and using food as a way to treat our inflammation?  Many parts of the runner’s body can become inflamed – the IT band, the muscles, the tendons, the knees, you name it.  But in addition to RICE, food can play a very important role in getting us out the door, healthy, and ready for the next run.

Certain foods possess certain anti-inflammatory agents that can help to speed up the recovery process.  In researching the top anti-inflammatory foods, one that was constantly mentioned was turmeric.  This spice, which is commonly used in Indian cuisine, has been shown to be just as effective as some NSAID drugs.  Even Rich Roll, in a recent guest blog post for Tim Ferriss, reiterates the benefits of this spice. He also emphasizes that an athlete who consumes a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods, will be able to train harder and longer than others.  Stupid pretzel…

Other foods that are high in anti-inflammatory properties are:

  • Salmon: high in omega 3 and protein
  • Basil: the oil in basil inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase, which is the same enzyme NSAIDS inhibits
  • Broccoli: high amounts of the flavonoid quercetin which counters inflammation
  • Ginger Root: contains the anti-inflammatory compound phenol and studies have shown that ginger root can reduce exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%
  • Kelp: contains fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidative.
  • Sweet Potatoes: a good source of complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin B6 and C as well as dietary fiber and these nutrients are powerful antioxidants that help to heal inflammation in the body
  • Green Tea: contains powerful anti-inflammatory flavonoids
  • Blueberries: contain phytonutrients that fight against inflammation
  • Tart Cherries: contain the antioxidant anythocyanins, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties

In addition to speeding recovery, anti-inflammatory foods have other benefits such as reduction in heart disease risk, keeping existing cardiac problems in check, reducing blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothing tender and stiff arthritic joints.  Ever since I’ve started running, there has always been someone there to remind me that when I’m older, I’m going to have arthritis.  I’m not planning on letting that happen, but I do think in order to be more proactive,  I need to be a little more conscious about the foods I’m eating after a hard workout.  Yes, the soft pretzel is delicious, but maybe I should go for sushi with green tea instead.

Dinner before Boston: Salmon with Sweet Potatoes

Delicious, but probably not so great after a hard workout

Happy Trails and Happy Running!
Tracie

Intermittent Fasting

As I was leaving the gym today, my friend Tiffany asked me what I thought about running on an empty stomach in the morning.  If she had asked me this same question a year ago, I would have probably told her that it was a bad idea.  However, I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about intermittent fasting and the benefits of working out on an empty stomach.  I told her to go for it.  But her question did get me thinking more about this unconventional approach to eating.

Question: What is intermittent fasting? What are the benefits and it is good for runners?

Intermittent fasting is simply alternating periods of fasting with periods of non-fasting.  There are many different approaches to IF, including:

1) skipping a meal
2) Eating only within a certain time window (for example, eating for only 8 hours during the day and fast the other 16)
3) the 48 hour fast which alternates 24 hours of fasting with 24 hours of non-fasting
4) eat early in the morning and late in the evening but fast throughout the rest of the day
5) do not eat several hours before bed, fast throughout the night, and then workout before eating breakfast

All my life, I have always been told to eat first thing in the morning to kick start my metabolism.  And more importantly, to continue eating several meals throughout the day, as this will prevent a drop in blood sugar and keep me mentally focused for the day.  So why in the world would I want to try intermittent fasting?

As humans, are bodies are only able to store a limited amount of glycogen, about 500 grams.  On the other hand, it can store tens of thousands of calories of fat.  The reason so many people experiment with intermittent fasting is because, teaching your body to burn fat as opposed to glycogen will give it an almost unlimited supply of energy (great for endurance) and make your body a lot leaner.   I was recently listening to a podcast and the speaker compared the body using glycogen as fuel to a fuel truck running out of gas on the side of the road.  The truck’s gas tank can only hold a limited amount of fuel, and even though the truck is carrying a large supply of gas, it can not access it.  I really liked that analogy.

By experimenting with intermittent fasting, not only are you teaching your body to burn fat for fuel, but you are also learning a thing or two about self control.  As one study put it, it is essential to fitness and good health to experience intentional hunger, become accustomed to the feeling, and not freak out.  You gain more control of your own body.  Some of other benefits of intermittent fasting are reduced blood lipidsblood pressure markers of inflammation oxidative stress, and cancer.  There is also increased cell turnover and repair, fat burning, growth hormone release, and metabolic rate.  Intermittent fasting also helps to improve appetite control, blood sugar control, cardiovascular function, and neuronal plasticity.

It was difficult to find a lot scientific evidence on intermittent fasting and running, mainly because this topic is still so new.  I did find, however, one study that looked at the blood sugar levels in two different runners, one who fasted for 23 hours and the other who did not.  After the 23 hours, both runners completed a 90 minute run at 70-75% of VO2 max.  What the researchers found was that the two runners had the exact same blood sugar levels!  This completely blew my mind, because I would have never expected that.  The body really is amazing at maintaining homeostasis.

Ben Greenfield, who is top triathlete and nutrition expert, often discusses intermittent fasting for athletes on his podcasts.  He recommends not eating a few hours before bed and then working out first thing in the morning, before eating breakfast.  This is an easy way to incorporate a 12-14 hour fast into the day.  Ben Greenfield, along with everything else that I read today, put a strong emphasis on eating high quality, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods along with lots of good quality proteins.  If you are going to be doing this to your body, it’s super important to make sure it gets the right stuff when you are eating.

Currently, with my schedule I can not work out first thing in the morning.  However, summer break is quickly approaching and I look forward to experimenting with intermittent fasting during the summer.  In reading at a lot of the anecdotal evidence, IF seems to help people really lean out, lose weight, and have more energy.  And when I was looking for a picture to include with this post, Google Images just kept giving me pictures of really ripped people.  I think I might like this…

 

 

Source: HiveHealthMedia

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Compression Socks

A few years ago when I was watching the New York City Marathon on television, I was quite intrigued by Shalane Flanagan’s choice of socks.  What in the world was she doing wearing those compression socks?  Since then, I have seen more and more athletes wearing these socks, and even my husband wears them for his long runs.  Recently my doctor recommended that I start wearing them to help with my lower left leg.  So now I’m curious…

My question, what is so great about compression socks and why should I be using them?

Photo Source: Zimbio

Compression socks were originally developed for people who had circulatory problems or forced inactivity.  Since then, athletes from many different sports have started using them as a way help performance and speed recovery.  The reasoning: during exercise blood can pool in the legs which leads to fatigue and muscle cramps.  With compression socks, the tight elasticity promotes blood flow which sends blood back to the heart.  With increased blood flow, there is less fatigue and muscle cramping.  There is also more oxygen being delivered throughout the body.

Not all compression socks are alike.  They actually come in different sizes (mid-calf, knee, thigh) and in different pressures gradients.  Depending on the pressure you are looking for, you can either buy them over the counter or you will need a prescription from your doctor.  (I had no idea doctors wrote prescriptions for socks!)  The over the counter socks come range in pressure from 10 mmHg – 15 mmHg to 15 mmHg – 20 mmHg.  And if you are looking for a little more pressure, your doctor can prescribe socks up to 50 mmHg.  Compression socks are tighter around the ankle and foot and then loosen up along the upper part of the leg.  In addition to helping promote blood flow through the body, some of the other benefits are increased oxygen delivery to the muscles, accelerated lactic acid removal, stabilization of the lower leg, minimized muscle fatigue and enhanced balance.

At first, I was quite skeptical about these socks.  However, if so many elites are using them, they have to be worth something, right?  In addition, the science supports the theory of increased blood flow and less muscle fatigue, which is definitely pushing me in the direction of getting a pair.  Compression socks are sold basically where you can get anything running related and the prices can range from $30 – $70, depending on the brand.  I have never worn any so I do not have any experience or reviews to share, however, Runner’s World has a nice article about the different types of socks and what they are good for.  Maybe my husband will let me borrow his so I can experiment with this increased blood flow.

Happy Trails, Happy Running, and HAPPY FRIDAY!

Tracie

Motivation

Motivation has always been something that has interested me.  I can be motivated to wake up at 5am on a Saturday morning for a long run, but ask me to organize my closet and I’ll have to get back to you on that one.  The thought of organizing anything equals no motivation.  Recently on Twitter I have been searching for people who are tweeting about running and motivation.   Most of the tweets I find fall along the lines of saying: “Need to go running, but lack motivation,” or “Not feeling motivated. Send me motivation”

This brings me to today’s question:

What gets people motivated and how can they stay motivated?

Motivation can be defined as “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.”  Right now it’s 10:24pm and I have 1 hour and 30 minutes to finish this blog post in order to not fail on my pledge, and I’ll be darned if I miss a post.  I’m motivated to make this happen.  Why?

Motivation is linked to certain brain functions.  Your brain learns to associate certain actions with certain rewards.  For example, a hard workout equals a glass of wine.  The wine is my reward and I enjoy it.  The reward provides me with natural reinforcement for future motivation.  Therefore, I become motivated to do the workout because I know the reward is soon to follow.

In order to stay motivated, you have to keep your eye on the prize.  Rewarding yourself along the way,  (such as with a glass of wine), will keep your motivation high and your focus sharp.  It is also important that you enjoy what you are doing.  Running outside is something I enjoy A LOT.  However, if someone told me I had to run on the dreadmill everyday, I’d lose some of my motivation.  I do not enjoy it.  Surrounding yourself with inspiration and your motto will also help to keep you focused.  I have a running inspiration board that I see every morning and it reminds me of what my end goal is.  In Boston, I had my motto written on my arm and it kept me going (up until mile 13.5).  You have to constantly remind yourself of what you are working so hard for.  Surround yourself with like minded people.  Discuss your goals with other people.  They will hold you accountable.  And finally, when you find yourself getting in a slump, immediately nip it in the bud.  Because as soon as you miss a week of working out, it becomes a slippery slope.

I’m always on the search for new motivation and I find a lot on YouTube and Pinterest.  Here are some of my favorite motivational videos and pictures:

So stay focused.  Reward yourself often. And surround yourself with inspiration.  It will get you out the door for those early morning runs and keep  you working for whatever your end goal may be.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

And on a side note, I want to send my deepest sympathies to my best friends Emily and Tyler.  They unexpectedly lost their beloved dog Beans this morning and it has been a very tough day.  Beans was an amazing animal and I will miss her dearly.  Pets really can become like our own children.

Honey Stingers

When I first started running, I did what everyone else told me to do.  If people said to drink gatorade, I drank gatorade.  If GU was the recommended energy gel, chocolate GU it was.  I never asked asked why and I never considered other options.  It was just what everyone told me to do.  Luckily, over the years I have experimented with my body and become a little more knowledgeable about my sports nutrition.  In my humble opinion, I have grown wiser and now no longer accept what everyone else says.

Recently in a Google+ hangout, we were discussing different types of energy gels and one of the runners recommended Honey Stingers.  A few weeks later, during our next hangout, another runner said she had started using them and they had worked quite well for her.  Mmmm… Honey Stingers.  This was a new thing for me so I immediately became curious.  This brings me to today’s question…

What are these Honey Stingers and what is so great about them?

Honey Stingers is a brand of sports nutrition that has been around since 2002.  They make several different products, including  protein bars, energy chews, gels, a waffle (yum!) , and energy bars.  For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on the the waffle, the chews, and the gel.

The Waffle

Honey Stinger waffles are a very tasty snack that was inspired by Mr. Lance Armstrong himself.  They are 100 % organic and are basically made of honey in between two thin waffles.  During a visit to my local REI store, I saw the waffles and had to try them.  Delicious! The company makes three different flavors: original, strawberry, and just recently, chocolate.  Each waffle is 160 calories and 21 grams of sugar, with the main ingredient being organic wheat flour.  The waffle comes individually wrapped and is easy to pack in your gym back.  I haven’t tried running with the waffle, but I’m imagining it would be broken to pieces after a few miles.  I think for me it’s a better pre-run snack.

The Chews

The Honey Stinger chews come in four different flavors: fruit smoothie pomegranate passion, cherry blossom, and orange blossom.  They are 95% organic and even contain 100% RDA of Vitamin C (which is great for the immune system).  The main ingredient in all of the chews is 100% organic tapioca syrup.  Honey Stinger chews are gluten free, dairy free, and use no genetically modified ingredients.  From my experience, I know a lot of athletes can be sensitive to wheat and gluten products, and based on what my Google+ friends had to say,  this product can really help with those issues.  There is something to be said about natural and simple.

The Gels

Although I have not tried all of the gels, I do think this is easily my favorite product, mainly for its simplicity.  In all five of the flavors (banana, gold, Ginsting, strawberry, and chocolate), honey is the main ingredient, followed by potassium citrate, water, and vitamins and minerals.  All of the gels contain a vitamin B complex, which can be extremely important during intense exercise (I’ll explain why in a minute).  The gels are 120 calories with 29 grams of sugar.

So why is honey a good choice for fueling during exercise?

Honey is a naturally occurring substance.  It contains unrefined sugars that are easily and evenly absorbed by the body.  Studies have shown that honey is a great carbohydrate option based on its low glycemic index, positive metabolic response, and effective energy production.  Because of the low glycemic index, your body will not experience a sudden burst of energy followed by a crash.  If you are going to be running for a significant amount of time, this is probably a good thing.  Perhaps one of the greatest things about Honey Stinger gels is the amount of B vitamins.  I didn’t realize this until today, but B vitamins are essential for athletes.  A study out of the University of Oregon has shown that athletes with low amounts of vitamin B perform worse than those who have higher amounts of the vitamin.  In addition, vitamin B helps with recovery by repairing damaged muscles and reducing swelling.  And perhaps the most interesting thing I read about B vitamins is that they are known as the “happy vitamin.”  Who knew? I know when I’m 20 miles into a race and have 6 more to go, I could certainly use a “happy vitamin.”  I’m thinking Honey Stinger gels might be the way to go.

Before I started researching Honey Stingers, I had been using 2nd Surge during my long runs.  It had worked well for me and with 100 mg of caffeine, I always felt that sudden burst of energy.  However, I’m interested in trying a more natural approach.  Something about happy vitamins and natural honey just seem a little more appealing.  Although I have not tried all of the Honey Stinger products, I can say that the waffles and the gel are quite delicious and had no negative effects on my stomach.  Perhaps I will try the chews next.

Wow, I’ve finally hit a milestone… five out of 365 posts!  And I already feel much more knowledgeable than I did a week ago.  I should be a running genius next year around this time.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,
Tracie

 

 

The Foam Roller

Before I get started with my question and answer session tonight, I just want to say it is amazing how what you think to be one simple question, can quickly grow into a much more complex answer.  My goal today was to keep the topic simpler than the last three days because my brain can only handle so much science in one week.  I assumed a simple topic such as foam rollers would be the way to go.  Oh what is it they say about assuming…?

Day Four

Question: Why foam roll?  And what are the differences between all of those different colors and sizes?

I’m sure most of us have seen people (or maybe even done it ourselves), rolling around with a look of pain on their faces on what seems to be a random piece of foam.  I purchased my own last year and I often times look at it as a form of punishment rather than a form of self-therapy.  It hurts.  But why? And why is it good for runners?

I once heard someone say that our bodies become what we do.  If we run all day and use the same muscles over and over, they will get tight.  In our body, we have connective tissue just below the skin that wraps around and connects to muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels.  The muscles plus this connective tissue (fascia) form the myofascia system.  When we overuse this system, underuse it, injure it, or simply don’t stretch it enough, it all gets stuck together and then forms knots, or trigger points.  When the myofascia system gets knotted up, we experience pain, soreness, and a limited range of motion.   This can lead to further problems for the runner if these “knots” are not worked out.  Enter the foam roller….

The purpose of the foam roller is to knead out those knots and break down scar tissue.  You use your own weight and the density of the foam, to work out those trigger points  By using a foam roller you are releasing and lengthening the fascia, which in addition to breaking down scar tissue, can increase range of motion.  A foam roller does what a good sports massage can do, but it’s significantly less expensive and much more convenient.

Foam rollers come in all different shapes and sizes.  From what I have read and researched, I have found five different types of foam rollers.  The softest and less expensive foam roller is the low density foam roller.  It costs about $12 and in my opinion, is good for a back support.  I’ve tried the white foam roller and it did absolutely nothing for me.  It was just too soft and didn’t even make me hurt.  Not my first choice.  Going up a level, there is the EVA foam roller which is more dense and therefore, offers more pressure.  It will do a much better job at working out those knots, but does cost a little more – around $36.  The EVA foam roller will definitely last longer than the low density foam roller, and it will certainly do a better job on that scar tissue.  Another type of foam roller is the molded foam roller.  It is made from thousands of small high density beads, which are then compressed into shape.  This foam roller tends to last longer and it is often the one you see at the gym.  It runs about $30.

The last two types of foam rollers are quite different than your traditional ones.  First, the TriggerPoint foam roller uses zones, or a “unique matrix of varying widths and densities”, that allow for a more precision based massage.  Because of the different zones, you are able to apply different amounts of pressure to certain areas of your body.  This foam roller comes in two sizes, the 13 inch and the 26 inch.  The smaller would fit great in your gym bag.  Depending on the size you get, the price can range from $30 to $65.  Personally, I’m only foam rolling one leg at a time so I think the small one would work just fine.

And I’ve saved the best for last… the RumbleRoller.  The RumbleRoller, which looks and sounds much scarier than an EVA foam roller, has a bumpy surface instead of a smooth one.  The bumps are similar to the thumbs of a massage therapist and are better suited for kneading the contours of your body.  In other words, you can apply more direct pressure on that knotty scar tissue.  I have never used one, but I imagine it is similar to the direct pressure I get on my legs during active release therapy.  Intense and painful, but totally worth it.  The RumbleRoller comes in two colors and two sizes.  The black one is firmer than the blue, and the smaller one is 12 inches long as opposed to the bigger one at 31 inches.  My massage therapist, who recommends the RumbleRoller, suggested the blue one.  Apparently the black roller is just a little more intense than what most people can handle.   The price can range from $40 – $70, which is quite a bit more expensive than the $12 low density roller.  However, I’m willing to bet this one is much more effective and that it will last much longer.

So there you have it.  Foam Roller 101.  Although I currently have a molded foam roller, I really want to try the RumbleRoller.  Maybe I’ll put it on my Christmas list…


Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

My medical team