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Stretching Exercises with a Foam Roller

One of my biggest concerns as a runner is to not get injured. Unfortunately I have had my share of bad experiences which has made me more determined to pay more attention to injury prevention exercises.

A year ago a very good friend, who is also a fitness instructor, introduced me to some foam roller stretching exercises. Now I always add a stretching workout routine at the end of each running session. Extra 15 minutes have saved me from lots of worries and pain, so I can warmly recommend this routine to any runner.

Quads Exercises:

Lay on the top of the roller with the elbows under your shoulders. Start the exercise above the knee then move up and down the hip slowly.

You can do the exercise with both legs and one leg at the time. I prefer with one leg at a time because it allows me to do a complete move. If you find a tender spot you should stop for about 20 seconds then continue.

IT Bands Exercises:

Lie on one side and place the foam roller beneath the outer thigh, near the hip. Both hands are on the floor. You will keep the arms straight during the exercise. Place the top leg in front of the other one. You move slowly up and down, from the hip to the upper knee area. If you find a tender spot, you stop for about 20 seconds. The exercise must be done with both legs.

This is the best exercise for runners as it can prevent knee, back and hips pain caused by tensioned muscles during running.

Calves Exercises:

Place the foam roller under the calves, below the knee area. The palms are positioned on the floor and the arms are straight. Lift your hips and start moving slowly back and forward, from ankles to the knees. If you find a sore spot, you should stop for 20 seconds then continue the exercise.

Glutes Exercises:

Sit on the foam roller with the palms on the floor. Keep the arms straight as they support your entire body weight. With the feet up you shift your weight slowly, up and down the buttocks. If you feel a sore spot, stop for 20 seconds. This exercise demands some equilibrium.

Hamstrings Exercises:

The exercise starts similar with the calves exercises, only that the foam roller is positioned above the knees. You move slowly, up and down from the buttocks to the knees, until you feel the tension is relieved.

Myofacial Exercises:

From time to time I indulge myself with other myofascial foam roller exercises which are practically like a free sports massage. I find them extremely helpful for my neck and upper or lower back area. You can do these anytime you feel your muscles are tight. Myofascial release helps to relieve pain in the muscles, often determined by improper stretching, injuries or lack of activity.

It's important to mention that you can use these stretching exercises after any workout, not just running. The key is to find the sore spots and stay in that position for about 20 seconds.

The most important detail is to not roll over bones or joints, so you don’t risk unnecessary injuries.

At the beginning, some of these exercises may seem difficult, but in time you will find them easier to do.

There are different foam rollers available (different lengths, widths, densities and thicknesses). I use a softer 36 inches long foam roller. It didn’t cost me that much (~ $20 dollars) and after months it still works great.

After almost one year I can confirm that foam rolling exercises have had a great impact on my running performances. So take my advice and get rolling!

This article is written by Anna based on her experience as a runner. If you want to find more useful details check also the treadmill workouts section from her personal project, RunReviews.

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