A foam roller might seem like a runner’s best friend, and it is, but it’s simply another way to increase circulation, according to San Francisco-based sports medicine specialist Anthony Gustin — so it’s most useful when used before your run. “You don’t need more blood flow after you’ve been running — it’s already been flowing,” Gustin explains. However, if you use a foam roller well after your run — say that evening or the next day, it can take the place of a massage or recovery exercise to help prevent soreness. “It’s a way to bring blood to the tissues,” Gustin says.
Here, Gustin recommends five foam-rolling moves to help prep your muscles for your next run:
1. THORACIC SPINE ROLL
“It’s so often overlooked when it comes to running, but your upper back needs to be able to move properly in order for your hips to move.”
How: Lie on the floor with your knees bent, and the roller placed horizontally beneath your shoulder blades. Pull your abs toward your spine to stabilize your body and interlace your hands behind your head. Stretch back and hold for 30 seconds. After returning to start, repeat as you move the roller up your shoulder blades in small increments.
2. LAT ROLL
“When your lats are tight, they can affect your hips and form.”
How: Lay on your side and place the roller under your side, about halfway between your armpit and waist (directly under your lats) and perpendicular to your body. Slowly roll your body back and forth over the foam roller for about 45 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
3. TWISTING BACK ROLL
“This move not only brings blood to the back muscles, but warms up the core. It will also help your hips move better when you run.”
How: Lay with the roller under your spine (make sure it’s one of the softer models), with your knees bent and abs pulled in. Interlace your fingers behind your head, and slowly twist from side to side for 30–60 seconds.
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4. INNER THIGH ROLL
“It’s about opposites, and keeping these loose can help prevent hips and IT bands from getting tight.”
How: Turn onto your belly and place the roller horizontally under your hips, specifically, under the top part of your right quadriceps muscle to start. Tilt your body slightly, so the pressure is on the inner side of your leg. Slowly roll up and down along your thigh and quad. Roll slowly for 30 seconds to a minute, and repeat with your left leg.
5. CALF AND ACHILLES TENDON ROLL
“Your calf and Achilles tendon can shorten. Bringing blood to the tissues and gently lengthening them can help make for a better run.”
How: Sit on the floor with legs extended and place the roller under the bottom of your calf muscle, just above your heel. Slowly roll your foot from side to side, rolling your Achilles tendon over the foam.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN