Monday, April 18, 2011

A foam roller saved my life

It's been a stank running week for me. I kept feeling like I was *maybe* coming down with something, I'd be a little bit chesty, a little bit sniffly, a little bit nauseous, but it never got worse. I ran five k's on Saturday, and it was horrid. Slow, painful, and I was locking up with shin splints. Instead of feeling energised and accomplished after my run, I felt depressed and hopeless. If I can't run five k's, how am I ever going to run 20? I massaged the legs out, but they stayed tight. Tight like steel cables, and the more I thought about it...they're always a little sore, those lower legs of mine. Even in bed at night, heavy and stiff and tired. Even on a simple walk, tight tight tight.
I took an extra rest day on Sunday, the first Sunday I haven't gone out to run in what feels like forever. I thought maybe I'm overtraining, and that's why I feel tired and achy, and why my legs hurt. After the rest I headed out on Monday morning to do some hillwork, aiming for 6.5 k's. I managed four hill reps and four and a half k's before limping home in pain.
When I have an injured area or a bad run I feel panicky. The thought of not being able to run, or not being able to stay on plan, makes me feel desperate.
Something had to be done. I spent a morning researching treatment (again!) and decided to go out and buy a foam roller. $90 and one lunch break later, I was the proud owner of one very long bright blue foam tubey thing, and had a good idea of how to use it.

The idea behind foam rolling is that it releases the fascia of the muscle, the coating that surrounds the muscle and causes the tight feeling. There's also an idea that the constant work-tear-rebuild cycle of exercise causes scar tissue or knots to build up on the muscle, and that rolling breaks up those knots. Basically it's like giving yourself a deep tissue massage. It's simulataneously a relief and intensely painful.
So I get home, chuck on my jammies, and hit that roller like my life depends on it. Back and forth under the rear of my calves, then kneeling up on it and working out the front of my calves. The relief was almost instant. I could feel the knots, and yep, that hurt like a bastard, but my legs are definitely looser.
After a walk this morning I repeated the process, carefully rolling and then stretching out the muscles, and I could actually stretch properly! It was still painful, but so much better.
Today my legs feel looser, but also sore (bruised?) from the rolling itself. I'm planning on another rest day or two, with morning and night rolling. I need to work in an easy run somewhere, to test drive my legs, and if they're ok I'll head out for this weekend's long run, which is a whopper at 17k's. If it's all too much I'm ok with reducing my run segments and walking most of the distance, it'll take a lot longer but I'm happy to dial it back for a bit if it means I can keep going and reach my goals.
Wish me luck...

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