When I ran in my late 20s, I was able to train for a couple half marathons and a full marathon by stretching only once a week — when I was forced to at track. Other than that, I gave little thought to the care and maintenance of my body because, you lucky 20-something bastards, I didn’t need to. And whereas I used to be able to get away with waking up, throwing on shorts, shirt, socks and shoes, and out the door I went, I now have a full regimen that happens before I even pull out my Nikes. In fact, twenty years later, not only do I have to stretch daily, but I own a full array of torture instruments to keep my body in reasonable condition to withstand the rigors of 35-50 mile training weeks.
My ART guy, who treated me for IT band issues in both legs, suggested I do my rolling routine before I run. Before that, it was after or whenever. I know some people like to do an intense once a week rolling session, but doing it about four times a week before I run seems to work for me.
I start with the foam roller. If the side of your knee has ever felt like an ice pick has been driven through it, then you have made frenemies with the foam roller. I do about 30 rolls each on my quads, high-frontish hips, hips, and then along the IT band. Eeks.
Then I move on to The Stick for my calves, 20-30 rolls on the sides and then the meat of the calf. This little fella gets in there really good. Argh.
Now if I’m being really diligent about keeping these areas malleable, then I’ll even “roll” a little bit at work with this portable punishment, the R8 Roller. I use this on my calves, quads, IT band. It will grow hair on your chest.
Back to my morning routine. Just like I use The Stick to concentrate on loosening up those tight calves, rolling on a baseball focuses on that sweet indentation in my hip. Not a softball, not a tennis ball – has to be a baseball. This actually feels kind of yummy, like I’m scratching an itch. About 30 rolls on this guy too.
After this, I do a couple other warm-up stretches, and then off I go. I like to do my stretching after I run when my muscles are warmed up and loose. One of the stretches I’ll do is with an elastic band, and it’s great for tight hammies. Hold for 30 seconds each leg, three sets.
However, last but not least, is the agony apparatus I spend the most time with: The Strassburg Sock. Affectionately known as “The Sock.” Now I don’t know if The Sock heals Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis. One of my friends swears it cured her plantar problem. I do know that I have calf issues, and this lightly stretches them, and oh by the way, I don’t have a plantar or Achilles problem, so maybe it works? Anyway, I’ll throw these on for about 15-30 min. a day whenever I’m watching TV or reading. They’re slightly uncomfortable and super sexy.
So that’s my four times a week rolling-sticking-balling-banding-socking routine, which seems to keep me fairly healthy. When I first started, I could hardly stand even a little bit of foam rolling, but things have loosened up over time, and I believe they’ll stay loose if I keep it up. I find that the more I do these daily maintenance rituals, the less big-time injuries I have to deal with. Kind of like with most things in life: The more I stay current, the less mess I have to clean up.