How to use a foam roller to stretch and massage
Last June, after year upon year of just messing about on my bikes, I decided to give racing a bit of a go and got stuck into some proper training with the help of High Rise Coaching. I’d previously not been too keen on the purely athletic side of cycling, but with a clear goal in mind (racing Red Hook Crit) and short, sharp, engaging training sessions prescribed by James, I ended up getting pretty into training, working out in the gym, and paying a bit more attention to my body and its demands.
One of things I began doing after every ride was a series of stretches and some foam rolling, initially using a home-made foam roller I’d fashioned out of a PVC pipe, some lagging and tape, and eventually graduating to a ‘proper’ foam roller that I grabbed from eBay (or was it Amazon?).
It really, really hurt at first, even with the relatively squishy, smooth DIY roller but I persevered as I’d been reliably informed that using a foam roller is one of the only ways of stretching your Iliotibial Band, the band of fibres that runs all the way down the outside edge of the thigh. A tight IT band is a common cause of knee pain, and though I don’t myself suffer from knee problems, I’d very much like to keep things that way, so foam rolling has stayed in my routine.
Using a foam roller gives your sore, tired muscles a good massage, which can promote recovery and can (supposedly) keep your myofascia, the connective tissue surrounding your muscles, nice and supple. I’m not a trained health/fitness professional so I can only go on what I’ve been told and how I feel, and after eight months of using a foam roller I’ve discovered that my legs feel better if I use one and I seem to experience less soreness in my legs the next time I ride.
The following video shows how to use a foam roller after cycling, in case you’d like to try it yourself. Just a quick note – at the end of the video I refer to using a smaller roller or a tennis ball on your backside – this is to massage the piriformis, an area in the glutes that I find gets quite tight and painful, which in turn makes my lower back sore. If you get this problem too, I’d definitely recommend using a tennis ball to roll over the area, in fact, perhaps I’ll make a video explaining that.
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