Foam rolling is an effective and gentle way to warm up your whole body. It also helps release tension and aids recovery from intense exercise by facilitating the removal of lactic acid from the muscles.
If you’re just doing a general warmup, you can do around five passes with the roller on each location. If you’re recovering from an intense workout and your muscles are fatigued, you might want to do 10 to 15 passes, or more. I recommend lingering on any areas that are tender.
This warmup is suitable for beginners.
This week, you’ll learn how to roll the lower legs.
Sit on a mat and place foam roller under your calf. Supporting yourself on both hands, lift your buttocks and roll from your Achilles tendon to the soft region behind your knee joint. As you roll you can rotate your hip inward and outward to get different muscle fibers.
Maintaining the same position on the mat, rotate your leg outward (toes point away from your body) to roll the outer most side of your lower leg from the ankle to the knee. This will warm up your ankle inverter muscles, which are often tight in people who run regularly and who have a history of ankle sprains.
Sit on the mat, bend your knee, and place the sole of the foot on the foam roller. Almost all the muscles of the lower legs extend into the bottom of your feet, so roll the entire sole of each foot. Include the sides of the feet as well. Play around with how much you flex your ankle by moving your toes toward and away from you.
Start on all fours with hands underneath your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lift one leg and place the roller underneath one shin. Supporting yourself on your hands and one knee, roll the front of your leg from your knee to your ankle. Repeat the same sequence on the other leg.
This move targets the muscles that help backward flexion of your ankle joints and that can become inflamed, leading to shin splints. Proper care of this area—resting and rolling—can help prevent this condition.
Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Canada whose primary interest is sharing resources and ideas on self-care. He can be reached via his website, DrBenKim.com