Marathon Training Week 17 : My New Frenemy (aka Foam Roller)

16 Sep

2 weeks to go…

Eeeek! It’s getting closer now. With less than two weeks to go it’s fair to say that I am nervous. Actually, sorry, I lied, I’m not nervous, I’m terrified! I had another bad week of training so it’s no wonder I don’t feel ready for this race.

What I Was Suppose To Do:

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What I Actually Did:

Tuesday, 8 x 800m did not happen. I was tired and my legs were still a bit sore from the long run last Saturday. I struggled through 6 rounds before calling it quits. I was annoyed at myself, well actually my legs, but I knew that stopping short was better than injuring myself further. Smart move! I was not so smart on Thursday though. I didn’t get out for my run during lunch so I had to go after work. The problem was that I was going to farewell drinks for a friend of ours that night also, so I needed to get this run over and done with quickly. Bad move! I was running well and completed the 13KM in just over 1 hour and made it to the drinks by 8PM. I was pretty happy with myself until I woke up on Friday morning with sore shins and a sore right hip (newest addition to the family of injuries). I rested all day Friday and headed out early on Saturday morning for my easy 21KM run. Right from the first step I knew I was in trouble. The pain in my shins and in my hip was more than what I had been experiencing lately and after only 2KM I turned around and headed for home. My total 4KM felt like the last 4KM of a 40KM run, not the first 4KM of a 21KM run. Seriously, what has happened to me?! One good run is all it takes to set me back a week. Now do you understand why I’m packing my dacks?!

One thing that has helped slightly is the arrival of a new friend-enemy in our house. Enter foam roller aka tower of terror, inflicter of pain, your worst nightmare.

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Foam Rollers

I was kind of excited to try the foam roller out but I was  under no illusions that it would be pain free. The first time I tried it I whimped out in pain after a few rolls, but during the week I tried it out again and again. It’s kind of like going to the physio for a rub down but instead of holding my breath, face purple, trying not to scream out in pain, I’m at home in the comfort of my own living room and freely squeal in pain each time the roller hits a sore spot. I must be a real sight though, rolling around on the floor, arms and legs every which way, the unbalanced me at my best! My husband on the other hand takes the methodical breathing to an all new level when using this delightful contraption, trying to be all macho in front of his lady while turning red in the face.

A running friend of mine swears by her foam roller so we thought we’d give it a go.

Sure, but what exactly is a foam roller?

A foam roller is a firm foam log that is roughly six inches in diameter. There are two types available on the market; A Grid roller which is firm on the inside, yet has a soft foam outer layer or a molded foam roller which is formed from tiny beads compressed to form a solid log. As this is our first time purchasing and trying one of these things, we decided to get the basic molded foam roller which is cheaper than the Grid roller but will not last as long. The Grid roller is a higher density roller and will not break down over time due to the EVA material used.

Ok, and what does a foam roller actually do?

Well, your muscles are surrounded by a soft tissue known as fascia. It is thought that this tissue can influence flexibility and joint range of movement. Research suggests that using a foam roller is a form of “Self Myofascial Release” that increases circulation to tired aching muscles bringing fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients as well as removing any build up of waste products. In other words, it’s a self administered deep-tissue massage to relieve and stretch tight muscles.

Well how do you even use a foam roller?

That’s an easy one. YouTube is your best friend here. There are literally hundreds of videos on YouTube that show you step-by-step how to use a foam roller for each of the different muscles. It does take a little bit of practice and upper body strength (when working on the legs) but eventually you get the hang of it. I’ve been working on my quads and calves most intensely and whilst I can feel the tension easing in my calf muscles, I think I need to work a bit harder on my quads. All in good time though.

Over the past 17 weeks of marathon training, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with running and now, after one week of using the foam roller, I’m entering into another love-hate relationship. The pains of running eased by the pains of rolling seems like a match made in heaven, or hell, I haven’t decided which.

Has anyone else used a foam roller? What do like/dislike about using it?  I’d love to hear your comments!

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