Last week I mentioned on Twitter that I was getting my foam rolling on and I got several questions about what foam rolling is, why it is good for you and how to do it. Here’s my lovely foam roller:

This is the foam roller I bought from Amazon. I got it a couple of years ago when I first started having problems with my IT band / runners knee. I’m no expert here, but the Iliotibial band is a muscle than runs from the outside of your hip down your thigh and into your knee. From what I could decipher from my physios, I have some bio mechanical issues and I tend to over pronate which means that my IT band gets worked hard trying to keep my legs in line and therefore can get very tight. When it gets too tight it starts rubbing against my knee and can cause me some nasty pain until it heals.

I’ve now suffered from that injury twice, both years I’ve been training for the Great North Run, and I am determined not to let it happen again! I can’t afford the physio again for a start. This is one of the reasons why I’m not pushing my pace too much in training. I’m more concerned about enjoying my training injury free and passing the finish line in one piece than getting a personal best. Even though my pace is slower I’m still getting tightness in my IT band and I’ve started to feel a niggle in my knee so as a preventative measure I’m using the foam roller as often as I can, as well as doing specific strength exercises (such as one leg squats) and stretches. The Hot Yoga classes should also be helping!

So what is foam rolling? A foam roller is a firm cylindrical piece of equipment which you can use to perform self massage – or myofascial release if you want to be posh. Its kind of like a self administered sports massage.

Here’s a great video from the Tone It Up girls which demonstrates how you can use the foam roller:

They’ve also done a handy print out of the moves. I tend to do my IT bands and quads but have started doing the chest stretches as well. You know when its working as it can be bloody painful! If you hit a tender spot you just need to keep at it (within reason of course) because that’s a tight area that needs to be relaxed.

Foam rolling isn’t just for runners but can be useful for anyone that exercises and even those that don’t and just get tightness from sitting at a computer! It can be great for relaxing and lengthening your muscles, it was even recommended as part of the Female Body Breakthrough programme for strength training recovery.

Have you tried foam rolling before?