The Brownlees’ physiotherapist Emma Deakin shares some foam roller massage moves for running injury prevention
Deakin works for the English Institute of Sport (EIS) as a lead physiotherapist with the Podium Development and Academy British Triathlon squads. She has played a key role in Alistair Brownlee’s recovery back to fitness after suffering from a tear to his achilles earlier on in the year.
A foam roller can give similar benefits to a deep tissue massage, and used correctly can help to improve flexibility and decrease muscle tension. It’s a lightweight, relatively cheap piece of kit (ranging from £10-£40), it’s easy to store at home and will fit into your bike bag when travelling to camps or competitions. It’s particularly useful for treating and preventing running injuries, in two ways:
Massage. Use a foam roller for soft tissue release (controlled rolling over a wide area) or trigger point work (rolling on a specific tender point).
Monitoring. You can use a foam roller after training as a way of knowing which muscles feel tight. You can then flag these up with your physio before it becomes a problem.
I asked the Brownlees what they thought were the most useful foam roller exercises, and they agreed it was the four below:
1 ITB (Iliotibial Band)
A tight ITB is commonly associated with the injury “runner’s knee”. The ITB is a band of fibrous material running from the top of the hip to underneath the knee. Any dysfunction can lead to pain at the front and side of the knee.
1. Lie on your right side with the roller just under your hip-bone.
2. Straighten your right leg, support yourself using your arms and if needed, the left leg.
3. Roll from the hip down the outer side of your leg to the knee.
4. Repeat on the other side
Tight calves can be a factor in a number of lower limb injuries, from Achilles problems to shin splints.
1. Sit with the roller under your calf, stacking one foot on top of the other.
2. Support your body weight with your hands and roll the length of the calf; alter the angle of the leg to get to the outside and inside of the muscle
Tight quads are a common complaint, but a foam roller can help overcome this. It promotes faster recovery, reduces soreness and lowers the risk of associated hip and knee injuries.
1. Lie face down, with the roller under one thigh, support your body weight with your arms.
2. Roll the length of the quad from the hip to the knee.
3. Alter the angle of the leg so the whole muscle is worked.
4 Thoracic Spine
A stiff thoracic spine is common, especially in triathletes who spend countless hours flexed over their handle bars. In addition to injury prevention, working on better thoracic extension will help run performance by improving run posture, biomechanics and breathing function.
1. Lie on your back over the roller with your lower back dropped down.
2. Roll, relaxing as much as possible, letting the back arch over the roller.
3. You can hold this position, or roll to target the muscles at either side of the spine. Support the neck if you have any issues in this region.