Since I've started training, there are three things that really bring a lot of pain and joy to my life - (1) Dry Needling, (2) Massage and (3) Foam Rolling. It is no secret that triathletes put their bodies through a lot. Focusing on one of the three sports can be demanding enough on the body, but the persistent stress and punishment put on your body from three different sports can be down right debilitating.
Ignoring this repetitive stress and strain can lead to all kinds of problems from general day-to-day discomfort to increased likelihood of serious injury - unwanted experiences for anybody, especially a triathlete in training mode.
A proper foam-rolling regime performed everyday can go a long way to ensuring you're able to perform and training at your best. I've been a fan of the foam roller much before I got into triathlon, but simply could not imagine where I'd be without my trusty rollers these days.
So why all the praise?
First, let's start with what Foam Rolling is and does. Put simply, foam rolling involves rolling your muscles over a long (or short) cylindrical foam structure that looks much like a pool noodle, but is much more solid. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. Fascia is the soft tissue portion of the connective tissue in the muscle that provides support and protection. The fascia becomes restricted with continued use of the muscle, with foam rolling providing one mechanism in easing the restriction; simulating the work carried out by a massage therapist.
I'm not one of those individuals who thinks foam rolling can replace regular massage. Massage therapists are magicians and a roller can never replace a qualified, good massage therapist. It can help you on a day-to-day basis for those of us who cannot afford the time or cost of a professional massage therapist.
So does it work? Hell yes. Some of the benefits include:
- Helps decrease the formation of trigger points and brings blood flow to troubled areas
- Speeds recovery - better blood circulation also brings in more nutrients and helps repair muscle damage that may have been caused during your training
- Increases range of motion without suffering muscle performance. Only two minutes of foam rolling displayed increases in the range of motion
- Increased flexibility in short-term and potentially over the long term
5 Foam Rolling Exercises for Triathletes
So, if you buy into the benefits of foam rolling, here are 5 exercises that I perform each and every day. They target the 5 areas that I find my training has the hardest impact on - IT Band, Glutes, Calves, Adductors, and Hamstrings.
The iliotibial band is the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. The IT band attaches to the knee and helps stabilize and move the joint.
The be all and end all of muscle groups for triathletes, the glutes are a big, strong, primary group of muscles used by triathletes. The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The functions of the muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation and internal rotation of the hip joint.
Triathlete calves can take a beating. It is pretty common for athletes to have extremely tight calves. The calf muscles is the meat part on the back of your lower leg. It attaches to your heel via the achilles tendon and thus keep it loose and well stretched can assist in keeping achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis at bay.
The adductors are located on the inside of your thigh and works together with the hammies and quads. It is an often overlooked area and group of muscles and can be quite painful when you first find the right spot on the roller.
The hamstrings are the tendons that attach the large muscles at the back of the thigh to bone. The hamstring muscles are the large muscles that pull on these tendons. These muscles span the thigh, crossing both the hip and the knee. The hamstring muscles actively bend the knee. They also act to straighten the hip (as in the motion of moving the thigh backward).