Sore muscles are proof of hard work, but they can also cause a great deal of discomfort. During cross-country season, a variety of muscles can become sore from practices or races. Maybe it’s your calves one week or your hamstrings are particularly sore the next. Regardless of the location of your discomfort, there is no better feeling than relieving the pain with a good stretch or massage. In fact, it is even possible to do a “self-message” that can be just as relieving as when you go to a professional masseuse. The technical name for this is self-myofascial release.
Self-myofascial release is a technique used by athletes at all levels to deal with sore muscles and “knots”. Knots form either in muscle or in the thin collagen casing: fascia (breakingmuscle.com). If you press firmly and run your hand along a muscle, these knots often present as small lumps. Whether the knots are in your muscles or fascia (which encases your muscles), they can negatively affect your mobility and performance, which can eventually lead to injury. Therefore, it is important to spend some time working them out. Previous posts have talked about how static stretching is not ideal before exercise. This is not the case for self-massage. Rolling out your muscles is highly recommended for before running, but can also be done after a run as well (Runner’s World).
Self-myofascial release can be done with a foam roller, Theracane, ball, or you can even use your hands. Below are directions for self-message using a BALL:
Different balls have different effects: the harder the ball, the more intense the massage. Therefore, it is important to try out different types of balls to see what works best for you.
These can include:
- Tennis balls
- Lacrosse balls
- Golf balls
Cross-country running specific muscle groups to roll out:
** It is important not to roll too fast: no more than one inch of affected muscle per second. When you roll over a knot, hesitate on that sensitive spot or just stay there for a while. Let your muscles surrounding the tight area relax. The intensity of the rolling pressure can be controlled by the amount of body weight you are putting onto the roller. If you want more intense pressure, apply more of your body weight**
- Arch of foot
- Sitting or standing, place the ball on the floor with your foot on top of the ball. Roll the ball up and down the length of your arch.
- Sitting on the ground with one leg out straight and the other bent, place the ball underneath the calf of your extended leg. Move your leg so that the ball rolls up and down the length of your calf.
- Place the ball underneath your hamstring when you are in the seated position. This can be done on the floor, but may be easier when seated in a wooden chair.
- Hip flexors
- Lay with your stomach on the floor. Place the ball underneath your hip-flexor (inner hip area) and leave it there for ~20 seconds. This is a difficult place to have the ball “roll”, so you may need to periodically change the position of the ball with your hands.
For more information on self-myofascial release, see here:
For more information on “rolling out”, see the link below: