There is a world of equipment designed to help relieve sore muscles after a tough workout, so you can loosen up tight muscles, increase blood flow, and boost mobility. This is called myofascial release, a type of self-massage used to apply pressure to certain parts of the body. The almighty foam roller is very helpful at myofascial release, but the it’s not your only option. I currently have 3 tools in my toolbox: the foam roller, the RumbleRoller, and The Stick. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my friends :)
By now, most athletes are very familiar with the ubiquitous black foam roller. It’s cheap, sturdy, and effective – what’s not to love? The firmer the foam roller, the deeper the pressure on your muscles. Simply place the foam roller on the floor, position your body above it, and allow gravity to pull you down over the foam roller. Relax your muscles and allow the foam roller to dig into your muscles. You can roll out basically any major part of your body: your quads, hamstrings, IT band, calves, butt, upper back, you name it. My tips are 1) to go slowly and 2) relax your body. When you move slowly, you allow time for the foam roller to really get in and break up any knots in your muscles. And you need to relax your muscles to allow it to happen. If you tense up, you won’t get the full benefit. It’s not designed to be relaxing or comforting, but it also shouldn’t hurt. I love to roll out my IT band, which tends to be really tight after my run.
You can get a great foam roller on Amazon for less than $20. Also check out 7 basic foam rolling exercises in this article by Women’s Health. I recommend the 36-inch foam roller. It’s so much easier to roll back and forth on a longer foam roller.
The RumbleRoller is the foam roller’s tougher, more intense cousin. It’s a textured foam roller with bumps and grooves on the outside to help you break up the knots in your muscles even more. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Can I be honest with you? I find the grooves really helpful for my butt! For some reason, with the way I run, my butt muscles tend to get sore, so I like rolling out on the RumbleRoller afterwards to treat myself to a butt massage :) I’ve also used the RumbleRoller on my IT bands, but you have to be careful. I definitely have been overzealous in the past and was left with bruises all along my outer thighs for a few days. Because this gets in deeper, I would recommend the RumbleRoller only for those who have already used a foam roller, but need a deeper massage. With its bumpy surface, it’s quite a bit more painful! Again, use the RumbleRoller slowly and relax your muscles. You want to breathe in, relax, and allow your bodyweight pull you down, letting the bumps break up any adhesions in your muscles.
You can get the RumbleRoller on Amazon for $45 – 70. It comes in 3 sizes (12 inches, 22 inches, and 31 inches) and 2 densities (original and extra firm). Pictured above is the original in 31 inches, and it’s perfect! However, this is not mine. Instead, I bought the extra firm 31-inch one, and I wish I went with the original density. The extra firm one can be quite an intense experience, penetrating deep into your muscles. And if it’s too painful, you may want to avoid rolling at all, and then you’ll miss out on the benefits of myofascial release altogether.
Ah, the stick. I was first introduced to this device in high school. My cross country assistant coach Kevin showed us how to hold the Stick at both ends and then rub it up and down our calves. The Stick has little knobs that look like marshmallows that help massage your muscles. The benefit and downside of the Stick is that you use your hands to apply pressure rather than bodyweight. So, it’s easier for you to use more or less pressure, depending on your needs. However, that also means it’s easier for you to apply too little pressure and not reap the full benefits. I like to use the Stick on my calves primarily, and sometimes on my IT bands. Since it’s so small and lightweight, I like to pack it on my trip when I need to travel for my races. You won’t be able to pack a foam roller or RumbleRoller when you’re boarding a plane, but you can easily throw the Stick into your luggage.
Well, there you have it. 3 tools to help you relieve your sore muscles after your workout. I foam roll after almost every run and I find that it helps a ton in speeding up recovery for my fatigued muscles. I know many of us dread stretching and foam rolling after the run, but I like to think of it as part of the workout. If you skip out on the post-run exercises, you’re missing an important part of the workout itself.
How do you relieve sore muscles? What tips do you have for preventing injury? Ice baths are another popular method, but I’ve never tried it! Have you tried ice baths, and what did you think?