Rollin with my foamies

Yes, it’s true. I’ve actually written a non-CIM training post! Are you as excited as I am??

I knew nothing about the IT band before I started running. Even after running for many years (albeit, not that seriously), I never experienced any IT band issues. However, as I continued to run regularly after this year’s Oakland Half Marathon, I began to get a soreness/tightness in my left IT band area. “So that’s what this whole IT band thing is about,” I thought to myself. (I’ve since realized that my particular sensation is unusual — most runners will get pain on the outside of their knee.) Luckily, many runners before me had figured out a relatively straightforward and effective IT band treatment: the foam roller. In fact, the Gypsy Runner already had one, so I just borrowed his on occasion.

It turns out that foam rollers and other massage tools are great for working on all sorts of sore spots: Achilles tendons, plantar fascia, calves, and glutes, just to name a few. According to this article, the way that it works is that massage breaks up scar tissue and allows it to be reabsorbed by the body, allowing faster and proper healing. Moreover, a peer-reviewed study published earlier this year showed that post-exercise massage can reduce inflammation by mitigating the production of cellular stress factors. It’s cool that they’re starting to get at the molecular mechanism of how this works (especially given that I’m a nerdy scientist at heart), but the proof is in the pudding: since using the foam roller, I haven’t had any significant IT band issues. Also, it feels so freaking good! Actually, at first it hurt like hell, but the more I use it, the more I can feel the IT band relaxing and hurt less. Or maybe you just get used to it. Whatevs.

Without further ado, these are the models I’ve used:

GoFit Foam Roll
This is the one that the Gypsy Runner has.
Pros: Affordable. Firm but not too firm. Widely available (he bought his at REI, and I’ve seen this model in a lot of stores). Lightweight.
Cons: It appears to be getting softer/disintegrating with time. Even though it’s lightweight, it’s still too long to be considered travel-friendly.

Thera-RollGrey (Hard)
I bought this one because I had Team Performance Points to burn. I had no idea how small it was (see photo).
Pros: Small, travel-friendly. Very firm. Good for lower calf, ankle, and bottom of feet.
Cons: Too small and too short for larger muscle groups, like… oh, anything above the lower calf.

Top to bottom: GoFit foam roll, Thera-Roll, iPhone (for scale).

Top view, from left to right: iPhone, TheraRoll, and GoFit foam roll.

Trigger Point GRID
I got tired of not having my own roller, so I bought this one for myself a few months ago.
Pros: Very high quality. Firm. Has various textured nubs (though I’m not sure if they make a real difference). Easy to clean. Shorter than the GoFit roller — easier to travel with? The company also claims it’s more environmentally friendly, in that it uses less foam and won’t break down as easily, resulting in a more durable (and therefore, less disposable) product.
Cons: Pricier than other rollers (starts at $40)… but considering that it is much better in quality, it will probably be the only foam roller I’ll ever buy.

Trigger Point GRID roller. My head for scale.

Winner: Trigger Point GRID.

I should mention that I also use a tennis ball to massage my feet and my glutes. I’ve heard that golf balls are also good for foot massages and lacrosse balls for your back. Anyone have experience with these or other massage devices (e.g., the Stick, Acuball, Thera Cane)? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

About the title: thanks to 2 blog posts with titles referencing songs (here and here), I felt compelled to stick with the theme. I scrapped my initial (and quite milquetoast) “Just Roll With It” to something a little more hip (?)… and a little more 90’s. So without further ado, I give you Coolio:


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Gear
15 comments on “Rollin with my foamies
  1. Nicole says:

    I’ve been wanting to experiment with foam rollers myself, but for some reason I thought they were much bigger than what’s in your pictures, and I didn’t want them cluttering up my living room. Looks like they’re a much more manageable size than I realized. Might have to pick one up this weekend.

    • Jen says:

      There ARE some really huge ones out there. Sometimes I wished my roller was longer, just so I could fit both quads on there comfortably, but overall I’m very happy with the size.

  2. Dominick S. says:

    The sad part is I have a roller but I don’t use it! I should probably break it out as a preventative measure.

    • Jen says:

      That’s great you haven’t had any IT problems. I usually bust out the roller when I’m watching Netflix or Hulu. Bonus: it makes for a good upper body and core workout too!

  3. Jill says:

    That Trigger Point GRID looks awesome. I’ve been wanting to get a foam roller for a while after using them at the gym, but they’re so gigantic that every time I see the same ones at REI I have second thoughts about how much space it’s going to take up in my closet. Maybe I’ll give this one a shot.

    This isn’t a personal endorsement but a friend of mine who is a massage therapist swears by the Body Back Buddy, which is like the Thera Cane but looks like it has even more projections and knobs on it. It allows you to really apply pressure to spots on your back without a lot of effort. I’ve also been meaning to try it out. It even comes with a mini travel version on amazon.

  4. Mike says:

    A clear sign you’re a runner… when you appreciate just how (freaking) good pain can feel.

    • Jen says:

      Yes, I’m learning that a big part of running is all about tolerating pain. Also, sometimes it’s necessary to fight pain with pain…

  5. Angela says:

    I LOVE my TriggerPoint! I used to have one of the plain foam ones, but it collapsed into an hour-glass shape after about a year which made it pretty useless. I’m also a big stick fan — I take it to work with me & stick my quads & hamstrings when my hands are free. Tennis balls are indeed awesome for the feet & glutes. I also a like a good lacrosse ball for when you need something with less give.

    • Jen says:

      Good to know! It seems that lots of people are happy with the stick… it’s going on my list of possible running-related purchases. 🙂

  6. Erin says:

    I love the grid roller. Good for the big stuff. For me, it pairs perfectly with a tennis ball which covers the small stuff and packs lighter for travel.

  7. MR DETERMINED says:

    Insightful post. I’ve been meaning to get a Trigger Point Grid. After look at a lot of reviews it seems to keep coming out on top. I hope it helps to with the muscle soreness and tension.

  8. Al says:

    I have been a roller for over a year now. Best thing that I have picked up in a long time. I did it on and off for a couple months leading up to a marathon and then my IT band acted up and I was out for a month. Since then I have been on the foam roller almost every night! Injury free since! *Knock on wood*

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On the docket…

4/28/19: London Marathon

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