How Runners Can improve Lower Leg Muscle Fitness Using the Foam Rolling Technique

Mostly suitable for runners, there is a popular exercise technique called foam rolling, which is also referred to as self-myofascial release training. It mostly involves exercise that improves the structural integrity of some of their leg muscles using a lacrosse ball or a foam roller. Even though popularly known as the foam roller for runners, the self-myofascial release tool is also used by athletes, therapists, and coaches as part of an everyday routine exercise. The technique itself involves applying pressure and massaging various parts of the fascial system, including the lower leg muscles to get rid of any stiffness and inflammation. Most professional runners do the exercise for 5-10 minutes before and after running, every 3-4 times weekly. During the exercise, the muscles are relieved of tightness and stiffness. Simply put, foam rolling is a highly important exercise technique for runners and athletes who want to improve their fitness levels, especially when it comes to lower leg muscle fitness.

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Source: http://selfcarer.com

Benefits of Foam Rollers for Runners 

The most important benefit of foam rolling for runners is that it promotes fitness levels of some of their most important muscles involved in the sport. For starters, foam rolling is known to relieve and release tightness and muscular tension from lower leg muscles and the surrounding fascia. This tightness and tension are believed to originate from repetitive physical activities such as running, resistance training, and other kinds of repetitive sports or training activities. Foam rollers are also effective in improving muscular flexibility and fascial muscle range of movement, especially when combined with dynamic stretching. The technique can also help decrease the risk of muscular injury. As pressure is applied to some specific points of the lower leg muscles, runners can benefit from the rolling exercise as it helps in quick muscle recovery and improves muscle function. This technique can help runners maintain healthy, elastic, and highly functional muscles to keep them competition-ready.

Primary Lower Leg Muscles Top Target When Foam Rolling 

When using the foam roller there are various points that runners should target in order to improve lower leg muscle fitness. Some of these fascial muscle points include the tibialis anterior, the calves, the thighs, and the gluteus muscles.

1. Tibialis Anterior

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Source: https://www.theguardian.com

The outermost part of the front of the lower leg, which originates from the shinbone is scientifically known as the Tibialis Anterior. The main function of the tibialis anterior is to pull the toes up as the ankle is flexed, during motion activities such as running or walking. In other words, the tibialis anterior muscles stabilize the ankle. To work out the tibialis anterior using the foam roller, one should start at some point near the knee downwards and do the respective reps.

2. The Calf Muscles 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

The back part of the lower leg is referred to as the calf, which is composed of two major muscle groups. These include the Soleus and the gastrocnemius calf muscle.

• Soleus Calf Muscle: This is the bigger flat muscle found in the middle of the calf, which takes care of flexing movements from the ankle joint.
• Gastrocnemius Calf Muscles: These are found slightly on the side of the calf and a responsible for effectuating forceful movements such as jumping.

To exercise the soleus calf using a foam roller, a straight motion is required. However, a slightly inclined motion is needed when exercising the gastrocnemius calf muscle using a foam roller.

3. Vastus Medialis 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

Extending to the knee, at the inner part of your front thigh, there exists a muscle known as the Vastus Medialis, which is one among the most important lower leg muscles for runners. In order to work out this muscle using a foam roller, a movement similar to a plank is required. You can also rotate the thigh gradually until you feel some pressure on the said muscle.
The Vastus Lateralis is a large muscle located on the lateral side of the thigh. It is also another highly important lower leg muscle for runners, meaning that it needs to be well-developed and properly functioning. As a matter of fact, it is the most powerful and largest thigh muscle. To work this muscle out, you will need to lie on your side so that you do a side plank motion using the foam roller.

4. Vastus Lateralis

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

The Vastus Lateralis is a large muscle located on the lateral side of the thigh. It is also another highly important lower leg muscle for runners, meaning that it needs to be well-developed and properly functioning. As a matter of fact, it is the most powerful and largest thigh muscle. To work this muscle out, you will need to lie on your side so that you do a side plank motion using the foam roller.

5. Gluteus Muscles 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

These are also known as the glutes, comprising of the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus located in the thigh. The Gluteus are also among the most hard-working leg muscles when running or walking, even though they are barely noticed most of the times. Some people regard them as not part of the lower leg muscles. For athletes, however, these muscles also need some working out with the foam roller. To work out the glutes, you need to assume a position nearly similar to that used when working out the vastus lateralis, though your body will be required to assume a more inclined position in this case.

Emily is founder of BodyShape101.com, a blog where she and her associates talk about exercise, fitness, and yoga. Their aim is to help people like you to achieve perfect body. BodyShape101 is concentrated on exercise & fitness tips, and making the most out of it. She is also a mother of one and she tries to find balance between her passion and her biggest joy in life.

Try This Quick Dynamic Warm-Up Before Your Next Run or Workout

Here is a quick dynamic warm-up that you can try before your next run or workout to get your body prepared for the upcoming bout of exercise. In the video, Julia, a D1 runner, used a foam roller for about 15 minutes prior to the start of the video.  Her goal was to “release” specific areas that were tight in her lower extremity resulting from a previous run.  You have the option of going through these specific movements more than once if needed.  Following the dynamic warm-up, she went for her run and then hit the foam roller once again before calling it a day.  Try 5-6 repetitions of each dynamic movement.

  • Foam Roller (15:00)
  • Jump Rope (2:00)
  • Dynamic Warm-up (5:00) @ 5-6 reps each
  • Run
  • Foam Roller

 

 

7 Health Tips from Fitness Expert Michael Wood, CSCS

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photo credit: http://kokofitclub.com

One of the many great things about life is that we continue to learn as we advance in age. This is especially true when it comes to finding new health and fitness tips and I’m sure this applies to your own personal health and fitness routine too. After close to thirty years working in the fitness industry, I have learned a few tricks of the trade myself and here are a few fitness tips that I focused on this past year that you may want to follow as well.

1. Challenge Your Mind, Body and Spirit with New Activities. Your thing may be yoga, running, biking, swimming or taking the 10,000 step challenge and if it’s something else that’s great too because these types of activities will get your body stronger, give you more energy and keep your mind clear. The key, however, is to stimulate your mind, body and spirit each day with either one of these eight letter words: movement, activity or exercise. For example, a few activities that I gravitated towards over the past year were stand-up paddle board, walking or running stadium stairs and snow-shoeing. What were some of your new activities?

I highly recommend that you try a new activity or two before the year comes to an end.

2. Start Wearing a Pedometer. A pedometer is ideal for helping you increase your daily activity. I have been wearing a Fitbit pedometer since 2009 and I really like the accountability factor. Fitbit, as a company, has gone on record stating their user base takes 43% more steps with Fitbit. If you go out and purchase a pedometer, have a goal of determining your daily average steps over the course of three days, then try adding 500 to 1000 steps a week (or 10-20% increase of your average from baseline) until you progress to 10,000 steps a day (this is about 5 miles). The average Fitbit user records about 6000 steps a day. Research conducted by Tudor-Locke and Schuna recommend that adults avoid averaging less than 5,000 steps a day and strive to average greater than 7,500 steps a day, of which about 3,000 steps (about 30 minutes) should be taken at a cadence of 100 steps or more a minute. Stanford University researchers looked at 26 different studies and summarized the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their synopsis showed individuals who use a pedometer take 2,000 additional steps each day compared to nonusers and had significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure while overall physical activity level increased by 27%.

Your goal is 10,000 steps a day and about 8-10 flights of stairs.

3. Get Stronger with Stadium Stair Workouts. Whether you walk or run the stairs it doesn’t matter because in the end the stairs always win. Stair workouts are ideal for improving cardiovascular health and increasing hip and leg strength. It is also a great supplement to your weekly strength training. It engages most of the muscles in your body and the caloric expenditure is high especially if you run. Look for an area high school stadium or college near-by and if you’re in the Boston area give Harvard Stadium a try and don’t forget to wear your pedometer, you won’t be sorry.

Try adding a 30-minute stair workout to your routine at least once a month.

4. Understand Strength Training is for Life. Some things in your training bag will come and go but when it comes to strength training it should be done for the rest of your life!  Be consistent, challenge yourself and make it progressive. According to one 1992 study women who did not strength train lost about 7 pounds of muscle every 10 years and a by-product of this was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day.

Add strength training in 2-3 times each week.

5. Bring High Intensity Interval Training into Play. No matter what you’re doing on the cardio side of things add interval-based cardio sessions into the mix on a weekly basis. You can find this type of exercise at a Koko FitClub near you. Here are two FREE (audio-based) cardio sessions to try. You can find interval-based workouts like Tabata and Stadium Stair intervals for all ability levels at Koko FitClub.

Add high intensity intervals to your cardio 1-2 times a week with adequate recovery between workouts.

6. You Are What You Eat. Exercise is great but if you don’t fuel up optimally it will eventually catch up with you. Try this one tip, watch your added daily sugar. If you’re a male eat no more than 150 calories a day (38 grams/day) and if you are female make it no more than 100 calories (25 grams/day). Do this for the next 4 weeks and see how much better you look and feel. A recent study found a correlation between high sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes rate across various countries. Remember that more than 80% of processed foods have high levels of added sugar.

Monitor your added sugar on a daily basis for the next 4 weeks.

7. Lengthen and Restore Tight Muscles. First, perform a quick “needs analysis” on your body. Have a goal of finding out what muscles are weak and what’s tight. Once this is determined, you need to work on strengthening what’s weak and lengthen what’s tight. In regard to the tight muscles, try adding these modalities or activities to your current routine: add a dynamic warm-up prior to exercise, try a yoga class, use a foam roller, get a regular massage or relax in a hot tub. If muscles are either too tight or too weak they are basically an accident waiting to happen. Maybe this is the cause of your low back pain?

Start using a foam roller asap. Focus on “rolling-out” your glutes, hamstrings, calf, back, IT-band and quads.

References

Tudor-Locke C and Schuna JM (2012). Steps to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Exercise, Walk More, or Sit Less? Frontiers in Endocrinology 3(142):1-7.

Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, et al. (2007). Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. Journal American Medical Association 298(19):2296-2304.

 

7 Tips from Fitness Expert Michael Wood, CSCS

MW headshot 2 copy 2One of the great things about life is the ability to continue to learn as you get older and this also holds true when applied to your own personal health and fitness. After more than 25 years in the fitness industry I have learned a few tricks of the trade along the way and here are a few of them that I focused on this past year, give them a try.

Challenge Mind and Body with New Activity. You may be into yoga, running, biking, swimming or taking exercises classes and whatever it is that’s great because they all help you clear your mind, burn calories and keep you moving. The key is to stimulate your mind, body and spirit each day with one of my favorite eight letter words: movement, activity or exercise. A few activities that I seem to have gravitated towards during the past year were stand-up paddle board, walking or running stadium stairs and snow-shoeing (with poles). I highly recommend you try them or find a new activity that will engage your mind and challenge your body.

Start Wearing a Pedometer. A pedometer is ideal for helping you increase your daily activity. I have been wearing a Fitbit pedometer since 2009 and really enjoy it. Your goal is to find out what your daily average steps are over the course of 3-5 days, then add 500 to 1000 steps a week (or 10-20% of your average determined from baseline) until you progress to 10,000 steps each day (this is about 5 miles). The average Fitbit user records about 6000 steps a day. Research by Tudor-Locke and Schuna recommend that adults avoid averaging less than 5,000 steps a day and strive to average greater than 7,500 steps a day, of which about 3,000 steps (about 30 minutes) should be taken at a cadence of 100 steps or more a minute. Stanford University researchers looked at 26 different studies and summarized the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their synopsis showed individuals who use a pedometer take 2,000 additional steps each day compared to nonusers and had significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure while overall physical activity level increased by 27%.

Get Strong with Stadium Stair Workouts. Whether you walk or run the stairs it doesn’t matter because in the end the stairs always win. Stair workouts are ideal for improving cardiovascular health and building hip and leg strength. It is also a great supplement with you’re weekly strength training. It engages most of the muscles in your body and the caloric expenditure is high especially if you run. Look for an area high school or college near-by and if you’re in the Boston area give Harvard Stadium a try and don’t forget to wear your pedometer, you won’t be sorry.

Understand Strength Training is for Life. Some things in your training bag will come and go but when it comes to strength training it should be done for the rest of your life! Be consistent, challenge yourself and make it progressive. According to one 1992 study women who did not strength train lost about 7 pounds of muscle every 10 years and a by-product of this was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day.

Bring Interval Training into Play. No matter what you’re doing on the cardio side of things add interval-based cardio sessions into the mix on a weekly basis. You can find this type of exercise at a Koko FitClub near you. Here are two FREE (audio-based) cardio sessions to try. You can find interval-based workouts like Tabata and Stadium Stair intervals for all ability levels at Koko FitClub.

You Are What You Eat. All the exercise is great but if you don’t fuel up optimally it will eventually catch up with you. Try this one tip, watch your added daily sugar. If you’re a male eat no more than 150 calories a day (38 grams/day) and if you are female make it no more than 100 calories (25 grams/day). Do this for the next month and see how better you look and feel. A recent study found a correlation between high sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes rate across various countries.

Lengthen Tight Muscles. Perform a quick needs analysis on your body with a goal in mind of finding out what’s weak and what’s tight. Once this is determined, you need to strengthen what’s weak and lengthen what’s tight. I know it sounds easy but most people do not do this and invariably end up compounding any problems they may have had. In regard to the tight muscles, add some of these modalities or activities to your current routine: add a dynamic warm-up prior to exercise, try a yoga class, use a foam roller, get regular massages or relax in a hot tub. If muscles are either too tight or too weak they are basically an accident waiting to happen. Maybe this is one of the reasons why you have low back pain. If nothing else, at least try the foam roller and “roll out” to a new you for the new year!

References

Tudor-Locke C and Schuna JM (2012). Steps to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Exercise, Walk More, or Sit Less? Frontiers in Endocrinology 3(142):1-7.

Bravata DM, Smith-Spangler C, et al. (2007). Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. Journal American Medical Association 298(19):2296-2304.

Michael Wood, CSCS, has been Chief Fitness Officer of Koko FitClub since 2005. The Koko digital gym currently has more than 130 franchise locations in 28 states.