I’m sure most runners are familiar with the foam roller concept and I’d bet (like me) we’ve even bought one, but do we use it ??? Hats off to the folks that do, mine has been sadly neglected. Excuses like, “I’ll get around to watching some youtube videos” or “I’ve just run for 3 hours, I can’t justify more time rollering” may sound familiar.
However, the overwhelming thought I left the workshop with, had to be, why haven’t I been doing this for years and how did I manage to pick the pair of socks with the hole in the big toe (yes you take your trainers off) !!! I can now ease aches, pains and tension, as well as reduce the likelihood of injury. Considering that I mainly run marathons, feeling supple and not “creaking”, is a win-win.
I saw a Saturday foam roller workshop advertised on instagram and contacted Gophysio to see if they ran any mid week sessions. Friday May the 18th was their reply at 5pm which was perfect for me.
On arrival I was immediately struck by how smart and spotless the reception area was. I particularly liked the words of wisdom that you read, as you walk in … “Look after your body, it’s the only place you have to live” Jim Rohn quote.
The weapons of torture were also on display in reception !! Torture is often a word associated with foam rollers but used properly they’ll save you lots more pain in your running !!
Tom the sports therapist invited the nine of us to follow him upstairs to the temperature controlled studio and I was again impressed that not only were there nine mats with a variety of rollering gadgets but there was also plenty of space between each mat.
Booking a smaller amount of people with enough space to do justice to the class meant Tom could freely walk around, checking on everyone. This personal attention ahead of profit making goes a long way in my book.
Tom kept the explanations of theory to a sensible minimum and we concentrated on one side of the body while we slowly went through our instructions, then for the last twenty minutes we could repeat the same for the other side of the body applying what we’d learnt. The methodical 35 minutes or so on one side meant we could apply our techniques with confidence in the second shorter session.
Exercise wise I’ll talk through generally what we did rather than attempt to offer instructions because I’m a runner and not a sports therapist !!
We started with the sole of the foot and a small trigger point ball. Applying a good measure of weight and rolling the ball backwards and forwards. We then swopped to a nano foot roller (3rd from the left in the picture above) which did a similar job but had a broader range rather than the more specific ball (4th from the left in the photo).
Next we used the larger trigger point ball and a large foam roller on our calves (the final 2 items in the photo above). Starting at a mid point and rollering down, then rolling up. While swopping between the roller and ball you could feel the difference and choose whether you could cope with the more intense ball as it pinpoints specific areas. Moving over onto your side also meant you could feel the benefit across a wider area.
I felt I didn’t have as much control with the ball until Tom showed me that shorter movements were required or in some cases bending your knee and then straightening your leg achieved the same result. This instant feedback was the benefit of a smaller class.
We carried out a similar approach for the hamstrings, quads, TFL (the small muscle were your pockets are) and gluts. On each occasion Tom encouraged us to find “hot spots” and hold the ball/ roller at that point until the tightness had eased off. With your gluts being quite a large muscle I took more time to explore ….. ha ha .
The nature of marathon training means repetitive use of certain muscles. I cycle to work most days and even though this flushes out stiffness (active recovery) it doesn’t pinpoint areas. Naturally all runners would benefit from rolling regardless of their distances.
Splitting each area up into upper and lower sections meant I found I only had a small range of movement and I didn’t feel like my legs and arms were shaking due to being over extended. Supporting yourself correctly makes the exercises both safer and more comfortable. Shoulders and back work then followed.
Various questions were asked through the session and it was interesting to hear that the class was made up of regular roller runners and novices like myself.
I haven’t attempted to explain the science of the muscles and the exercises but suffice to say I felt considerably more flexible. With Dorchester marathon only a week away I certainly benefitted from loosening some “knots” and I’ll use my own roller through this last taper week.
We thanked Tom for an excellent session, completed his feedback form and the chit-chat between us was just how useful the hour had been.
Top marks to Chandlers Ford’s Gophysio and at £15 for the hour long session it really is money well spent. I’d go as far as saying it’s an investment in your running future. I’ll be buying a trigger point ball to accompany my own roller.