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Out There: Getting On A (Foam) Roll

  • By Susan Lacke
  • Published Mar. 21, 2013
  • Updated Mar. 21, 2013 at 2:54 PM UTC
Don't be afraid of the foam roller; it has a multitude of benefits. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

If you haven’t tried foam rolling after a workout, give it a shot. Its benefits are worth it.

“I can’t believe you don’t foam roll.”

I was having coffee and Run Talk with a friend when I shared my issues with tight hip flexors. When the solution of foam rolling came up, I rolled my eyes and waved it off. The whole process was uncomfortable, I didn’t have time for it, and really, I just didn’t see the point of making it an everyday thing. It never made me feel better after a run.

“You know Kobe beef?”

“The expensive Japanese stuff?” I cocked my head to the side, finding the question unusual. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it. Why?”

“That stuff is the very best. You know why it’s so pricey?”

“Because it’s from Japan?”

“Not quite. They take these cows and massage them every day. Frequent rubdowns make the meat all tender and yummy.”

He gestured as if he were massaging a cow, complete with relaxed moos. To anyone observing the conversation from afar, the image would have looked grossly inappropriate. I slid down in my chair, crimson-faced and praying no one I knew would walk into the coffee shop.

“So the massaged cows are better than the non-massaged cows.”

“Yes.”

“So you’re saying … ” my brows furrowed quizzically, “I should … be like the Japanese cow?”

“Moo, baby. Moo.”

In spite of being incredibly disturbed by such a creepy analogy, I listened as my friend described how daily foam rolling would help make my muscles supple, and supple muscles would make my running better and help keep injuries at bay. Before parting, I promised to try daily foam rolling for at least one month.

RELATED: Foam Rolling Or Stretching?

It sounds like a simple enough promise, doesn’t it? Every day, get out the foam roller, drop to the floor, and spend a few minutes in positions that look like making love to a PVC pipe. Simple enough.

But daily foam rolling is deceiving in its simplicity. On day one, my nose-to-carpet position alerted me to the infrequency in which I use my vacuum cleaner. Day two, my dogs decided my foam rolling time was an invitation to use my face as a trampoline.

On day seven, I was hot, tired, and just wanted to get into the shower after my run. On day 19, I had a column due. On day 22, I just didn’t give a crap.

And for all thirty-one days, foam rolling hurt. Some days were less painful than others, but every day provided at least five grimace-worthy moments. In spite of it all, I did it daily.

Wednesday was day 31. I finished my rolling session and laid on the floor, taking stock of how I felt. Aside from my dog licking my big toe, I had to be honest: I didn’t really feel anything. I expected some sort of earth-shattering revelation, a realization that I was suddenly as limber as a Cirque du Soleil dancer. Why didn’t I feel amazing? Where were my Kobe beef legs, damn it?

RELATED: Foam Roller Benefits

But I didn’t feel worse, either. And then the light bulb went on: I didn’t feel worse!

You see, in the past month, my training has ramped up, both in mileage and intensity. In the past, these increases left me tired, sore, and at times an irritable pissy pants. But not this time. This time, I’ve woken up every morning feeling ready to take on the day’s workouts, and have largely been able to avoid injury. For perhaps the first time in my running career, there’s a consistent post-workout routine: do some cool-down exercises, stretch, foam roll, make a recovery smoothie, and shower. It’s automatic, even on the days when I use every excuse not to do it.

Each little component of our recovery may not yield immediate feelings of “better,” but it does make us feel … well, “not-worse.” I think a lot of us probably take that feeling for granted. I know I certainly used the delayed gratification as evidence of why I didn’t have time to hump a piece of foam every day.

But try it. I challenge you to make a commitment to doing it for just one month. If you can make this a habit, you may find that “not-worse” is actually a really good feeling.

Just one request, though: Please don’t moo. It’s creepy.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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