I often find myself answering the same questions when it comes to taking care of one's body and the best tools to do so. Unfortunately for me, I am not getting paid to tell you about these products. However, these are three tools every runner should have to help prevent injuries and stay loose.
The first is a foot roller, or foot wheel. You can get an idea of what one looks like from the image below. Feet require much love and care for runners, because with each step while running we are slamming 2.5 times our body weight into the ground through our feet. And because we are one body, if our feet get tight enough then our Achilles tendon, calves, thighs, IT band, glutes, hips, lower back, upper back, and neck can sequentially get tighter and become more prone to injury.
Rolling out our feet for even a minute each day goes a long way for maintaining healthy feet. The ease of standing there and rolling my feet combined with the short period of time required is my main case for a foot wheel. I personally like it because it is far less effort than massaging my feet (which should also be done on a regular basis, but I'm not even capable of that so I won't expect you to be). Check out Hero Toes, a common yoga pose, if you want another foot care technique.
The second is a theracane, which you can see an image of below. This odd looking massage tool is very effective for getting to just about anywhere on our bodies. The knobs are useful to jam into knots and feel the sweet release of tight muscles. The cane shape allows for getting at hard to reach spots on our backs and other areas. It also creates some leverage to get into knots in general.
It takes some experimentation to find different ways to use this. Fortunately, this tool does come with a user's manual complete with diagrams to get you started. My personal favorite is to lay down on my back and pivot the knob at the curved end up into my neck to release neck tension.
This one is a classic, and a must for every runner's massage toolkit. They come in many shapes and sizes, and I don't really see much of a difference between the various options available. I personally use one that's about 18 inches long in order to have the freedom to roll sideways over the roller to get at more of my body without having to shift the roller itself around.
Foam rollers are particularly helpful for calves, quads, hamstrings, IT bands, and hips. They can also be used on other areas of the body. This can be a painful tool, but remember you decide the pressure or amount of your own body weight used when rolling.
Most runners have tight legs and hips, so rolling out those areas is very helpful. Rolling 3-5 times a week for several months can address injuries related to the IT band or excessively tight calves, for example. Another less known trick with foam rollers is to find the troublesome spot and lay stationary on it for 1 to 3 minutes. When it comes to releasing a specific knot, there is the technique.
I've been using all three of these tools for years, and my only regrets have come when I fail to make use of them. And don't forget, consistent use goes a long way!
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