Triathlon Training and Foam Rolling: Good Idea?

Ah, the foam roller—that dense foam cylinder that you see in the athletic store or the gym.  You may have seen someone use it or maybe you have ventured to try it for yourself. 

But if you are like most triathletes, you still shy away from the foam cylinder as you deem it unnecessary or uncomfortable. In that sense, foam rolling can be likened to stretching—something you should do but aren’t really sure if it’s worth the time or effort.

Let me assure you, it’s worth the time! The success of your next triathlon training session can be greatly enhanced by your diligence in using the foam roller. Foam rolling can be an integral and important part of the recovery process to repair your muscles from your last training session and prepare them for the next workout. 

Many coaches will recommend an athletic massage for recovery purposes. But for those of us who don’t have pockets deep enough for frequent sport massages, foam rolling is an inexpensive way to provide self-myofascial release (self-massage). 

Foam rolling is not to be used to treat injured muscles, but can be key in injury prevention. Taking the time to “roll out” the muscle groups used during training will increase blood flood to the area, aiding in repair. 

Not sure where to begin?  Here are three foam roller exercises to get you started:

  1. Calves -- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place the foam roller underneath the lower leg, near the ankles. Using your hands as support, elevate your hips slightly and “roll” back and forth from the ankles to the upper calf.Increase the intensity of this exercise by crossing one leg over the other to roll one calf at a time.
  2. Hamstrings -- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place the foam roller underneath the upper leg, near the base of your glutes. Using your hands as support, “roll” back and forth from the base of the glutes to just above the back of the knee.
  3. Quadriceps -- Begin in a “hands and knees” position on the floor. As you lower to the floor, position the foam roller underneath the thighs. Support your upper body with your hands and “roll” back and forth from the top of the knee to the hips.

Got those down? Use it on the latissimus dorsi, piriformis, adductors, hip flexors, and trapezius. Just remember that the foam roller can be a great tool in your triathlon training! 

Talk to TriDot: Have you used a foam roller as a part of your post-workout recovery routine? What type of results have you experienced?

Elizabeth James is an Ironman, a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, and a TriDot Coach. She made the transition from running marathons to triathlon in 2012 and has completed sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and full Ironman distances. She and her husband, Charles, live in Garland, Texas. Her TriDot Score is 33-35-45.

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