How to Ease Muscle Soreness With a Foam Roller
The foam roller is your friend. This simple and handy device can reduce muscle soreness, speed recovery, and even relieve stress. Taking a few minutes out of your day to roll out the knots in your muscles will help you train harder, perform better, and avoid injury.
Here is a good starting routine for the foam roller (a small, firm ball - like a racquetball or tennis ball - will help you reach smaller, deeper muscles). Make a pass or two over each group, pausing and taking deep breaths when you find a sore spot. Don’t overdo it, less is more here. Keep your attention on the experience in your muscles, breath, and mind.
Lower yourself onto your hands and knees to lay the front of your thigh on the roller. Moving slowly, trace the central, inner, and outer edges of your thigh to release the quadriceps. You can work both legs at once, or go one at a time.
Place your hands on the ground and position the rear of your thigh overtop the foam roller. Make slow, gradual passes up the middle, inside and outside of each leg, one leg at a time.
Start in the same position as you did when rolling your hamstrings, only now the roller will be underneath your lower leg. Roll out your calf gradually, paying special attention to the area where your calf muscle connects to your Achilles. To add intensity, position your non-rolling leg overtop the rolling leg as a weight.
Prop yourself up on one side and rest your upper, outer thigh against the foam roller. The sensation on this move can be quite intense, so go slowly and be kind to yourself. Bend the non-rolling leg at the knee and position it on the ground if having your entire body weight on the roller is too much.
Sit on the roller with your knees bent and drop your legs to one side. Lean the rest of your body towards this side, putting more of your weight into the muscles of your outer hip resting against the roller. You can also use a ball to reach knots here by sitting with the ball under your outer hip.
Starting with your shoulders on the roller, slowly walk yourself back and forward to release the muscles of your back. Use your arms to support your neck if it tires. To work the sides of your spine, lean to one side and angle your knees the same way.
Feet (and bonus stretches with the ball)
To relieve tension in your feet and plantar fascia, roll the sole of the foot on a ball. You can start with a softer ball, like a child’s bouncy toy, and work your way to a harder ball, like a lacrosse ball, if you want more intensity. You can also use the ball to break up knots in the pectoralis muscles in your chest — just use your hand to roll the ball overtop the affected area. The ball will also help you access the piriformis, an often-tight muscle located deep in your buttocks. To do this, sit with the ball underneath one side of your buttocks and breathe.
Sage Rountree is a yoga teacher, endurance sports coach/athlete and writer. She is the author of books such as "The Athlete's Guide to Yoga," "The Athlete's Guide to Recovery" and "The Runner's Guide to Yoga." Rountree teaches workshops on yoga for athletes nationwide and online.