Post-Thru-Hike Foam Rolling Routine

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You’ve finished your thru-hike.  Congratulations!  Now that you’re back home, you should devote some serious time to self-care.  You have put enormous physical demands on your body for the last 4 or 5 months.  The result of this may be that you are feeling tight, sore, and stiff.  This article will focus on your recovery by providing a post-thru-hike foam rolling routine.

Now before we proceed, it is important to clarify that when I say soreness, I’m not talking about an injury.  If you suspect that you have an injury, you should consult your physician before starting a foam-rolling routine.  In fact, you should consult your physician before beginning any fitness program to find out if it’s right for you.

You may be asking what does she mean by recovery?  When I say recovery, I mean taking care of your muscles and connective tissue after exercise.  While recovery post-workout includes many factors, such as sleep and nutrition, this article focuses on care of your muscles and connective tissue.

So what is foam rolling, and how will it help me recover?  Foam rolling is a generic term for the process of self-myofascial release (SMR).  Your body has connective tissue that encapsulates your muscles.  This fascia can become “bundled” with use, which may affect the underlying muscle groups and your joints.  Self-myofascial release is the process of massaging these trigger points through applied pressure.

The practical application of various myofascial release tools, such as a foam roller, to these tight, sore areas may help you to realign fascia.  Performing a regular foam-rolling routine followed with static stretching may help you reduce stiffness, soreness, and tension while increasing flexibility.  Moreover, you may experience an enhanced range of motion as a result.

Timing

When is the best time to foam roll?  In my personal opinion, I like to perform self-myofascial release when my muscles are warm.  Directly after your workout, before you stretch, is a great time.  I always foam roll and stretch after a workout.  Flexibility training is probably the least prioritized aspect of fitness for most people.  Build this time into your workouts.  It is important for your wellness.

Let’s say you’re not doing a workout today.  Then spend some time warming your body up before doing your foam rolling and static stretch routine.  This could be anything, such as jump roping, jogging, jumping jacks, and walking up and down the stairs.

Personally, I like to foam roll and stretch before bed.  Every night, I dedicate at least 20 minutes to my routine of warming up, foam rolling and then stretching.  This is ideal for me because it prepares me for sleep by relaxing my body and mind.

Breathing

Make sure that you are conscientious of your breathing during your foam-rolling routine.  Find a rhythm that is comfortable for you.  This will ensure efficient delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and will help to relax you.  Breathe deeply to encourage flexibility.  Remember never force a position.  You’re going to be a little uncomfortable during this process, especially if you’re really tight.  Focus on your breathing and try to relax.

Foam Rolling Techniques

Now you know what SMR is and how it may help, so how do you do it?  Once you position the foam roller, you’ll roll back-and-forth over the targeted area.  When you feel a tender spot, stop and give that location your attention.

How you do this will largely depend upon your pain tolerance.  If you’re feeling immensely sore and tight, just try to concentrate on that area for 30 to 60 seconds with small movements back-and-forth before moving on to the next tender area (ACE, p.244).  In my personal experience, applying sustained pressure on the spot for 60 seconds or longer has been most effective for me.

Here are a few simple foam-rolling techniques that you can do to help alleviate muscle stiffness post-thru-hike.  You may have more techniques in your repertoire to add to these, and that is great.

SMR for the Quadriceps

Pictured below are some examples of SMR for the quadriceps.  Position your quadriceps over the foam roller (you can do both legs at once, or concentrate on one leg at a time).  Keep your core tight during this process.  Remember your breathing.  Try to relax as you roll slowly, gently back-and-forth.  Use your elbows to walk your body along the floor.

When you’ve found a tender spot, pause and give it your attention by performing small, continuous movements over the trigger point for 30 to 60 seconds.  Or if you are feeling tolerant, apply sustained pressure to the area at your discretion.

SMR for the Hamstrings

Pictured below are some examples of SMR for the hamstrings.  Position your hamstrings over the foam roller (you can do both legs at once, or concentrate on one leg at a time).  Keep your core tight during this process.  Remember your breathing.  Try to relax as you roll slowly, gently back-and-forth.  If your wrists are tired, stop and rest them.  Also, you can modify your position by making fists instead of using your palms.

When you’ve found a tender spot, pause and give it your attention by performing small, continuous movements over the trigger point for 30 to 60 seconds.  Or if you are feeling tolerant, apply sustained pressure to the area at your discretion.

SMR for the Calves

Pictured below are some examples of SMR for the calf muscles.  Position your calves over the foam roller  (you can do both legs at once, or concentrate on one leg at a time).  Keep your core tight during this process.  Remember your breathing.  Try to relax as you roll slowly, gently back-and-forth.  If your wrists are tired, stop and rest them.  Also, you can modify your position by making fists instead of using your palms.

When you’ve found a tender spot, pause and give it your attention by performing small, continuous movements over the trigger point for 30 to 60 seconds.  Or if you are feeling tolerant, apply sustained pressure to the area at your discretion.

Summary

Now that you have finished your thru-hike, indulge in some self-care by adopting a regular foam-rolling routine.  I hope this foam-rolling tutorial will help you to feel less stiff and sore, increasing your range of motion and quality of life.  Remember to warm up your muscles before foam-rolling and stretching.  I recommend adopting a static-stretch routine to practice directly after your foam-rolling.  Please see our article: Post-Thru-Hike Simple Stretch Routine for ideas.

If you found this article helpful, please share.  Also, if you have anything you would like to add, please leave a comment.  Good luck with your recovery, and cheers to your next adventure!

In the Spring of 2018, we set out to thru-hike the A.T.  To hear our full story, click here.

About the Author

My name is Stretch.  I’m an ACE-certified personal trainer and a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200).  Any questions or suggestions?  Please leave a comment.

Read about Hikerlore’s wellness page: The Fit Hiker here.

Sources

  1. ACE’s Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals

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