Foam Rolling for Runners

Love to run? Keep your body injury-free with foam rolling for runners.

This post is sponsored by HoMedics® as part of the #NotGonnaStop campaign. All opinions–as always!–are my own. I appreciate your support of the brands that make this blog possible!

In a recent Instagram post, I talked about how I pretty much completely stopped running after crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon last April. I had ZERO desire to go for even short runs so … I didn’t. There are so many other ways to get a quality cardio workout in so why force running? I instead turned to spin, boxing, bootcamp and HIIT workouts for a sweat and for the last year have probably only gone for a handful of runs, none of which were longer than four or five miles.

Maybe it’s the warm weather creeping in or the fact that it’s marathon weekend in Boston, but it’s only just recently that I’ve started to get the itch to run again. And like with most activities you haven’t done in a while, the first couple long(er) runs left me super sore last week (my calves!!).

Foam rolling is important for mobility and injury prevention, and I’m never more vigilant about doing it than when I’m running regularly. With perfect timing, I was recently sent a package of HoMedics® Sports Recovery Massagers (available on Target.com!) and have been putting them to good use.

Love to run? Keep your body injury-free with foam rolling for runners.What you won’t be able to see in these pictures is that all the HoMedics® Sports Recovery Massagers include vibration for a deeper, more effective, more hurts-so-good massage. I especially like using the vibrating option when I’m pinpointing a knot. I’ll roll over the muscle first and when I hit a sweet spot, turn on the vibration and press firmly on it for 20-30 seconds.

Everyone can benefit from foam rolling, but with the running spark reignited in me and the Boston Marathon on Monday, let’s go over some muscles to focus on in particular if you’re a runner.

Foam Rolling for Runners

The following muscles are the ones I show the most love with the foam roller when I’m running frequently. Every body is different and we’re all working with different muscle imbalances, injuries and workout regimens so think of this as a general guide, not an exact foam rolling prescription for you individually. Especially if you’re injured, check with a doctor or PT before whipping out the foam rollerit can makes things worse to roll directly on an injury.

You’ll want to spend at least 1-2 minutes on each muscle, slowly rolling up and down, stopping when you hit a sweet spot (knot). Apply pressure to those knots for 20-30 seconds before continuing the larger rolling motions.

I’m using the HoMedics® Gladiator™ Vibration Foam Roller in the below pictures which has battery-operated vibration for an even deeper massage. There are three vibration intensities to choose from and I usually stay on the lowest one while doing the big rolling and then the highest for pinpointing knots. The roller also has multiple foam textures on its surface so you get a variety of sensations. It also has a hidden compartment so that you can store your keys, ear buds, etc. if you’re bringing it to the gym.

Love to run? Keep your body injury-free with foam rolling for runners.

Quads | Unless my quads are particularly tight, I typically roll one leg at a time so to increase the pressure. As pictured at the start of this post, I’ll also sometimes use The HoMedics® Vertex Vibration Stick Roller which has six spinning rollers and is of a harder material than the HoMedics® Gladiator™ Vibration Foam Roller. I roll up and down the center; up and down at a slight angle to the right; up and down at a slight angle to the left.

Adductors | When rolling out the adductors, place the foam roller lengthwise alongside you and come into a half frog position. 

Calves | With the other muscles, foam rolling is a hurts-so-good feeling. With my calves, it’s full on torture. A long time ago I blogged about my experience getting a runner’s assessment and the trainer working on me actually called over her colleague to watch what was happening with my calves because it was literally as if she were rolling over marbles. Oy vey. When I’m holding on a knot (which is every centimeter), I’ll do so with my foot flexed and then with it pointed to really try to work it loose.

Glutes | I’ll cross my leg over the knee to better hit the piriformis (sometimes I feel like a ball is more effective), but when I do the glute max and med, I usually like having the leg out straight.

TFL / IT Band | When it comes to the IT Band, you need to think about foam rolling the muscles to which it attaches. I usually start with my glutes and TFL and then gradually make my way down towards the tibia. As I roll down the IT Band, I don’t roll directly on my outer thigh, but rather lean my body forward at an angle so it’s more the outer/front thigh area.

Love to run? Keep your body injury-free with foam rolling for runners.

Last but not least—that’s an understatement, actually. Last and BEST, the feet. I could massage my feet all day. The HoMedics® Atlas Vibration Acu-Node Massager offers a gentle vibration and its acu-node texture delivers pinpointed pressure that my arches love.

All these HoMedics® Sports Recovery Massagers and more are available at Target.com, HoMedics.com and in-store at Rite Aid.

Love to run? Keep your body injury-free with foam rolling for runners.

What’s the most painful (in a “good” way) muscle/muscle group for you to foam roll? Anyone like me and say calves?!

 

Inner Thigh Workouts Won’t Give You a Thigh Gap

Sharing some truth bombs about the current obsession with having a "thigh gap".

^Anyone else’s’ Mom have a Suzanne Somers thigh master back in the day?? LOL

One of the most frequent workout requests I get is for one targeting inner thighs. Normally with workout requests, I add them right to the list and do my best to have them created and posted within the month. I find myself putting off the inner thigh workout, however, because I get the feeling the popularity of the request has something to do with this thigh gap craze.

I don’t want to make assumptions, and am sure some people just genuinely are looking to strengthen this muscle group. And for that reason, I’m absolutely going to put together some adductor workouts. But for those who are thinking inner thigh workouts = thigh gap, I just want to share my thoughts and some facts about the topic that I hope are helpful.

In sharing the info below, I’m in no way suggesting you should strive for a gap between your thighs (as will become clear as the blog post goes on). The term honestly makes me cringe a little. Yet here I am. Writing an entire post about it.

The Truth about “Thigh Gaps”

Not everyone can achieve a thigh gap.

Whether we like it or not, not everything is within our control (hi, genetics!). You can be the most petite of petites and still not have a gap between your uppermost thighs if your hips are narrow. So the idea that this would be a beauty standard to which we all try to aspire is just ridiculous. Who even decided this was a thing?? We come in different shapes and builds; we store excess weight in different areas of our body; and we use our bodies in different ways depending on the activities we love.

I'm sharing some facts about the thigh gap craze.

And with all that being said, let’s also not forget that some thigh gaps in pictures are just there because of the way the person is posing. If I stand regularly with my ankles touching and good posture, I don’t have a thigh gap. But if I stick my butt out, tilt my pelvis forward and internally rotate my thighs … boom. So maybe that Insta-famous chick whose legs you’re coveting is just posing at a drastic angle–you have to take social media with a grain of salt and can’t let it make you feel bad about yourself.

Working out is an important piece, but the fix you’re looking for probably lies in your diet.

I don’t think a thigh gap should be your goal, but it’s helpful to talk about the general way in which we approach body parts that we’ve deemed “problem areas”. My intent in sharing the below information isn’t to be like “Hey guys, this is how you get a thigh gap!” but to explain in general how weight loss works, should that be a *healthy* goal of yours.

So let’s break down a “thigh gap” and assume it’s not due to an anterior pelvic tilt (a postural muscle imbalance that can often happen if you have tight hip flexors): It’s a combination of thin (ish) thighs and wide (ish) hips. So reducing the size of your thighs (aka losing weight) would be the way to get there. Now, don’t get me wrong, working out is an integral part of the process, but the biggest influencer is what you’re eating. Any time you’re talking about losing weight, it’s about 70% diet and 30% exercise (that’ll vary by person).

Muscle is more dense than fat (weighs more, takes up less space), so you absolutely want to do strength training, but that needs to be paired with a healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods eaten in reasonable portion sizes. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to see the majority of that hard work you’re putting in at the gym.

So if you see some bullshit clickbait workout on Pinterest titled “Thigh Gap Workout” or “The Best Workout for a Thigh Gap” please regard it as garbage.

I get questions like this a lot: “Will this core workout help me lose my love handles?” or “Will this quad workout give me thinner thighs?” And it doesn’t exactly work like that. Yes, exercise plays a role. But I can’t overemphasize how important food is.

You can’t spot reduce.

Working out your thighs doesn’t mean you’re going to lose weight specifically from your thighs. Doing a million crunches won’t make you lose weight just from your stomach. You can target where you build strength, but not from where you lose fat.

Let’s say you burn 3,500 calories in a week during your workouts. That’s equal to about a 1-lb weight loss. That one pound isn’t going to be lost from the area which worked the hardest. If you burned the entire 3,500 calories doing glute work, you’re not going to lose one pound of fat directly from your butt. You might lose some from that area, but it really just depends on our individual bodies and how our weight tends to be distributed.

Don’t let beauty standard trends affect how you feel about your body.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. But beauty trends are just that: trends. And like all other trends, they come and go. Being waif thin was “in” then J. Lo burst on the scene and having a big butt was “in”. Remember in the early 2000s when everyone would over-pluck the shit out of their eyebrows because that was “in”? Now we’re all penciling and even tattooing on more brow because the bigger and bolder the better. Already, I see the thigh gap talk growing quieter (thank the lord), and while I’d idealistically love for our society’s idea of beauty to just revolve around things like kindness, health and happiness, I’m sure some other physical trend will take its place.

I'm sharing some facts about the thigh gap craze.

Even if you can and do achieve certain physical markers deemed beautiful by society, I promise you those alone can not make you feel fulfilled. If you’re unhappy with yourself when your thighs touch, you will not suddenly radiate joy with a gap between them. There’s nothing wrong with caring about your appearance–I care about mine!–the issue lies when your self value is completely defined by it.

I realize that as a thin white woman, I’m not exactly the most powerful messenger for championing body diversity, but it’s still important to me that I talk about it on the blog. The distance between your thighs has absolutely nothing to do with your worth. Just focus on being the best version of you. Maybe your thighs touch because they’re strong AF and you’ve been training them consistently for years. That’s something to be celebrated!

So with all that being said, I am going to share a workout targeting the inner thighs soon. Not to help anyone achieve a thigh gap, but to help us strengthen our adductors. Let’s focus more on what our bodies can do and less on what they look like.

The Health Benefits of Quitting Coffee (for Me)

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!If you missed yesterday’s post, I talked about my relationship with coffee over the years and my experience giving it up three months ago. Today I want to talk about all the health benefits of quitting coffee I’ve noticed over the last three months. By no means did I wake up the next day and suddenly feel like a brand new woman–most of these changes are subtle and weren’t noticeable for weeks or even months.

Now that I can take inventory of tangible improvements, I’m certain my gut feeling to quit drinking coffee in the first place was right, and I’m even more enthusiastic about continuing to go without my morning cup of joe. For years though, I never stuck it out long enough to see and feel these changes, and that left me conceding that I might as well just drink coffee again. And that I did. Time and time again. Everyone’s body is unique and responds differently to coffee and caffeine, but if you suspect it may not be the healthiest habit for you, my advice is to really give it a few solid months before making a judgement call. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the first month the only noticeable change for me was how sad I was to be without my favorite beverage. It took patience and will power and was totally worth it.

Health Benefits of Quitting Coffee (for Me)

I’m More in Tune with My *True* Energy Levels

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!

This is huge for me. My whole idea of health is being in tune with my body–when I truly listen to it, it is always my best, most informed guide for what workouts I should be doing and food I should be eating. I’ve learned you can only fight your body (physically and/or emotionally) for so long before it ends in injury, illness, energy crash or emotional breakdown.

Caffeine was effective at masking how I truly felt and what my actual energy levels were, but really was just delaying the inevitable. Sure, I could power through a week of not getting enough sleep by drinking coffee throughout the day but that doesn’t change the fact that my body is sleep deprived.

At the three month mark without coffee, I definitely feel like I have more energy and I don’t experience that drastic afternoon dip. That being said, I really do need to go to bed early enough to give my body the sleep it needs in order to feel that freeing natural energy. I have to work with my body instead of against or despite it.

I should add that things definitely got worse before my energy leveled out. The first class I teach in the morning starts at 5:45AM. For weeks this was brutal without my caffeinated crutch. No longer could I bypass the effects of a bad night’s sleep by drinking coffee to power through my classes. Eventually though, my body adjusted to life without caffeine and now I’m back to being the natural morning person I’ve been since I was a kid. I can’t even explain how liberating it is to wake up full of *real* energy each day without needing a cup of coffee to feel like a functioning human. (Granted, I need to get my ass to bed at a decent hour to feel this way, but that’s how it should be!)

My Skin Is Clearer

Caffeine increases your body’s stress levels by triggering a sort of fight or flight response that signals the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones. Increased levels of cortisol have been linked to acne and breakouts, so–especially if you drink several cups a day–your daily coffee intake could be having a negative affect on your skin. (This article goes deeper into the possible connections between caffeine and acne if you’re interested.) Sometimes it’s more what you put in your coffee (dairy and sugar) than the coffee itself, but I drink my coffee black so that wasn’t the case for me.

I haven’t had really “bad” skin since high school, but my oily complexion and sweaty profession usually result in clogged pores, small zits and an overall bumpy, dull texture. Honestly nothing bad enough to lose sleep over but I always feel like there’s room for improvement. I still get a few zits before my period, but  since quitting coffee, I’ve noticed an improvement in the texture of my skin–it’s smoother and more even.

Another contributing factor to my skin changes isn’t so much the removal of caffeine but the increase in water because of it. I drink a lot more water now that I don’t drink coffee, and staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Instead of drinking coffee while teaching my morning classes, I drink a big bottle of water. When I sit down to start working at my desk, I again reach for water instead of a second cup of coffee. Yes, coffee is water, but it’s also a diuretic so in my mind the two cancel each other out (I’m not a doctor or nutritionist–take that as opinion more than fact!). I certainly don’t feel hydrated after drinking a bunch of coffee.

If you think caffeine might be affecting your skin negatively, check out this girl’s experience cutting out coffee to cure her acne.

I’m Actually Hungry in the Morning

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!

Drinking coffee first thing in the morning would leave me without much of an appetite until late morning or even lunchtime. I either teach three workout classes or do my own workout first thing in the morning so this just didn’t feel right. My body should be hungry. The result of not eating much in the morning usually meant that I’d then overeat at night, having a massive dinner and then snacking on the couch until bedtime.

Now I wake up with a good, healthy hunger in the morning. Eating a big breakfast to satisfy that has helped me eat a normal portioned lunch and dinner and then chill on the late night snacking.

I’m Not as Moody and Irritable

Caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants can cause anxiety as they increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This was absolutely the case for me. Because caffeine is addictive, you can also experience the irritability and depression that comes with withdrawals. Now I should preface this retelling of my experience by emphasizing that I have a history of depression and moodiness so for me in particular, really the last thing I need in my life is to be drinking any sort of substance that can alter my mood. I’m sure lots of people happily enjoy a cup of coffee a day without the dramatics I experienced!

I honestly didn’t really notice I was moody, anxious and irritable while drinking coffee regularly–it wasn’t like any of this was so intense that it was affecting my life or relationships. I only noticed the change afterwards. Sometimes it’s hard to connect the dots: Am I irritable because there’s something valid to be irritated about or is it the caffeine that’s making me respond so intensely to this irritant? Only through eliminating coffee was I able to see the cause and effect relationship. Now my mood is stable, I don’t get rushes of anxiety over trivial things, and I think I’ve been an all around more pleasant person in the last couple months.

This article from Whole30.com talks more about this (the author apparently had a similar experience to me when she quit coffee!). This article elaborates on the connection between caffeine and mood swings, and finally this piece discusses some studies suggesting caffeine worsens depression. To play devil’s advocate, I’ve also seen studies suggesting caffeine improves mood, so take everything with a grain of salt. My intent is to share some information on the topic and ultimately just encourage you to figure out what’s best for your body.

My PMS Isn’t as Bad

The days before my period have, for the last several years, consisted of a drastic dip in energy and irrationally bad moods. If that part of my cycle happened to fall on a day I was teaching, I would drag through my morning classes (even after inhaling a cup or two of coffee) and then I’d inevitably need a nap afterwards I’d be so drained. I’d also snap at Joe for the dumbest of dumb reasons (“You didn’t put the toothpaste cap back on?!” *sobs hysterically*) and would feel super down and antisocial. It’d only last a day or two and I always just brushed it off as an inevitable part of being a female, but the craziest thing happened when I stopped drinking coffee.

My PMS exhaustion and moodiness have all but vanished. What?!

I didn’t connect it to quitting coffee at first, but for three cycles now I’ve had no noticeable dip in energy before my period and my mood has held steady. The only change I’ve made to my daily routine in that time has been to eliminate coffee. It makes sense that with increased natural energy, lower anxiety and a more stable mood, PMS would be a bit more tame.

Before I end this post, I wanted to share this Forbes article I found interesting. It suggests the only reason coffee has been linked to increased performance (more coffee = more productive at work) is because of caffeine withdrawals, which decrease performance. So the coffee is actually just bringing you back to neutral after a night’s sleep withdrawing from caffeine, rather than making you some workplace superhero. Some food for thought!

Ok phew! This has been two long AF blog posts in a row. Before signing off and returning to our regularly scheduled program, I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad about their coffee habit–you have no idea how much I wish I could still drink it every morning and feel as good as I feel without it! Our bodies are all different and I think we should be constantly striving to figure out what lifestyle habits make us feel our best.

How does coffee/caffeine affect you? If you’ve eliminated it, what changes have you noticed? Think this post is a bunch of BS? Share your positive experience with caffeine and/or any studies supporting it–all opinions welcome!