WARNING: The Number 1 Mistake All Runners Make!!!

Runners of all people know how important it is to look after your body. If you’re running a 5k, 10k or even a marathon it’s important to have a warm up and cool down in place to avoid any potential injuries. Anyone who is committed to their running won’t last too long or have an enjoyable experience if they neglect proper recovery and rest time. Yoga stretches, sport massages and muscle release techniques are all common practise these days to keep the body in good shape, especially before an event!

In recent years the foam roller has become an incredibly popular piece of equipment to add the injury prevention aspect of running. I use it myself and why wouldn’t I or any other runner? It’s a fantastic way to self massage the legs and back. Increasingfoam-rolling2circulation to the muscles and stimulating the sensory neurons to improve flexibility at the joints. It’s definitely good practise to use something like a foam roller to help with those achey muscles after an intense training session or event. So even with all these benefits of foam rolling why is it that foam rolling is causing injuries here there and everywhere, even ruining some peoples bodies permanently!?!? This is no joke, so let me explain…

It’s not that foam rolling itself is bad, but the way in which some people are foam rolling is  literally ruining their bodies, leaving them unable to run and in pain… Allot of pain.

So what’s the problem?

A very common issue runners complain about is their ‘ITB is tight’ (ITB – illiotibial band). The ITB is a thick band of fascia (connective tissue), that runs down the outside of the IT-bandthigh from the hip, inserting into the knee. The ITB has many functions but the two I’m going to focus on here are stabilisation of the knee and force absorption.

If your knee isn’t stabilised by the ITB it will roll too far in or out when running which over the years can cause the cartilage to wear away. Resulting in knee replacement surgery. You also need force absorption from the ITB so your joints don’t take too much impact which would again wear them down. For the ITB to be an effective stabiliser and force absorber it needs to have a good relationship with the nervous system. This requires for the ITB to have a degree of tautness.

So the problem is runners who feel their ITB is tight begin to foam roll it profusely. And to be fair it sounds logical right? If it’s week, strengthen it. If it’s tight, stretch it (or in this case, foam roll it). The problem is that your ITB is not a muscle, it’s a band of fascia. If someone is constantly rolling their ITB on a hard surface it will eventually become too ‘loose’ and won’t be able to perform it’s jobs properly. As soon as your ITB loses it’s ability to stabilise the knee and absorb force from the ground, other areas in the body will have to compensate which will lead to pain, tension, dysfunction and eventually injury…

Of course you don’t want that to happen but what if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘this is great and everything but my ITB is tight and foam rolling it gives me relief, what should I do instead?’

Let me give you some much healther ways to deal with your ITB tightness and even eliminate it from your life completely…

Your ITB connects onto two muscles around the pelvic area (gluteus maximus and tensor fascia latae). If these muscles are tight or in spasm (not firing when they’re SELF-MASSAGE-GLUTES-2supposed to), then this may be the root cause to your ITB tightness in the first place. So instead of foam rolling your ITB, I’d recommend massaging your glute muscles with a massage ball. Massaging the glutes will start to increase the circulation and hydration to the muscles and stimulate the sensory neurons to improve their function. If these muscles are working better then the ITB won’t have to be so tight.

 

The main take away here is foam rolling is great and I do it on a regular basis. The thing to avoid is foam rolling onto the ITB. I’ve seen and heard too many people who have had to stop running due to hip, knee and back pain due to their ITB being damaged, in some scenarios these cases even leading to surgery…

So pick up a pair a massage balls and give your glutes a good massage (before and after running) your ITB will love you for it:)

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Tom Waldrom
Tom Waldron

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