One thing I learned big time when training for my half marathon this past spring was the importance of Self Massage – i.e. foam rolling or using tools to ease muscle pain/tightness. What I didn’t know is there were a whole world of tools and techniques that could be used for different areas. Here are a few of my favorite tools and a few of the ways I’m able to get by between professional massages.
- Trigger Point Grid foam roller
- Tennis ball
- SPRI Tiger Tail massage stick
- Yoga strap
I use all of these things in various ways, but the Trigger Point Grid foam roller is probably my favorite because it is so versatile. You can find one here, but I got mine from a sweet deal on eBay. The foam roller is good for larger muscle groups in your legs, but I also use mine to get a good stretch in my low back and to massage my entire upper back/shoulder area in one swoop. Trigger Point is not the only brand out there, it’s just the one I happen to like from using the one in the gym at work. Some foam rollers are solid foam and others are hollow like the Trigger Point Grid – I think it’s up to your personal preference and which one works the best for you. Foam rolling lengthens muscles and pushes any bad joojoo out of the muscles allowing them to heal. “Knots” are usually areas of tension or poor circulation meaning the muscles can’t heal, and when you’re training hard or trying to lose weight by gaining muscle – the last thing you want is your muscles NOT healing so they get stronger and bigger. Foam rolling is great for tight hip flexors or IT bands and feels wonderful on hamstrings.
I use my SPRI Tiger Tail a lot for hard to reach places like inner thighs, neck and shoulders; it’s also really good for getting a nice deep push on your hamstrings. I bought the 18″ stick from Amazon and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made for my training arsenal thus far. My favorite thing to do with my Tiger Tail is do light massage on the muscles of my shins/lower legs because foam rolling them hurts too much for my liking. My Tiger Tail usually gets packed in my snowmobiling duffle as well as a quick and easy way to relieve muscle aches and pains from being on the sled all day.
Next up is the good old fashioned tennis ball. This thing was a life saver when I was training for my half and came down with a case of the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis. I had ridiculous heel pain when trying to stretch my foot backwards toward my knee and it hurt to run. I rolled the tennis ball in the arch of my foot and around on the heel twice a day for a few weeks and the Plantar Fasciitis magically went away. My chiropractor said you could also use a frozen bottle of water, but I like the squishiness of the tennis ball to really get in there! I also use my tennis ball for hard to reach areas in my upper back/shoulders and neck area by pressing it between my back and a wall or chair. You can roll the ball around or just press… I find that usually if something hurts a little when the ball rolls over it, that area needs a little more attention. If I fight through the little bit of being uncomfortable I’m usually happy with the results.
Another pretty simple tool I use is a yoga strap (like this one here) that I bought in college for yoga classes. I’ve learned from working with my trainer at work that you can stretch all kinds of things with your yoga strap. My favorite stretch is the hamstring/groin stretch you can get while laying on your back. This website has a really nice guide for the specific hamstring/groin poses I’m talking about. I actually have two straps now – one for my gym bag and one for home. On top of the mesh yoga straps, when I was having Plantar problems I started using a stretchy Gaiam Flex Band to stretch my Plantar. Now it lives on my nightstand so I can stretch before I get out of bed and ruin the healing my body did overnight.
This simple toolbox of Self Massage tools has cost me less than $100 and have proven their worth over and over again. Being on a budget, I don’t have the funds to go get massages all the time… but training for races, lifting and being active all the time leaves me pretty sore most of the time. On top of Self Massage I know it’s important to give my body a break every couple of days to recover but Self Massage allows there to be less rest for the wicked 😉
Question – What tools do you use for recovery and Self Massage?
89 days til the snow flies!