Marathon recovery has been tricky for me; I am not a patient person and waiting for my muscles to heal is not an easy task. Following the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I forced myself to take a few days off and employ some tactics I learned from my running coaches.
In the days following the marathon, I soaked in warm Epsom salted bath water, endured a Cryotherapy treatment and frequently practiced foam rolling. This combination was the exact formula to get me back to my normal training regime within a week. I frequently use salt soaking and cold relief, but the addition of foam rolling was a new component that had great benefits.
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique used by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles. It is a form of stretching that improves soft tissue extensibility, relaxing the muscle and activating the antagonist muscle.
One of the reasons I love foam rolling is my ability to do it every day, multiple times a day. So, during recovery mode, when I am supposed to be taking it easy, I can pull out my foam roller and roll away. Not only does this benefit my body, but it eases my mind by providing me with the “I am actually doing something” feeling.
Foam rolling has become quite popular and a simple internet search will reveal countless exercises you can perform to reach different parts of your body. While rolling, it is important to reach the full length of your muscle, taking care to activate any “hot spots” you may have.
For example, as you roll along your upper thigh, you want to roll from your hip down to the top of your knee to ensure you are activating the entire muscle. As you roll, you may feel areas of the muscle that hurt more than others. Those are the areas you want to target.
Spending a few extra seconds rolling back and forth on these hot spots is extremely beneficial to recovery, and can also be painful. Foam rolling is like any other exercise; the more you do it, the more your body will be able to endure the tougher workouts. When I first began, I would have a hard time rolling the hot spots of my body for more than a few seconds. I can now endure a longer session and the benefits have increased.
Recovery is faster and my muscles feel more relaxed when I finish a foam rolling session. Be mindful though, as you begin foam rolling, you may feel sore after a session. That’s okay. Just keep rolling.