Rollin’ In The Deep - - Foam Roller Love & Other Advice From An Injury Prone Runner

By Tanya

Me and my beloved foam roller
There is no doubt that running has provided me with numerous health benefits, however there is also no denying that running has been tough on my body.

I have read that when running, the average runner strikes the ground with seven to eight times the force of his or her body weight. No matter how much you weigh that’s a lot of stress for your muscles, tendons, joints and bones to endure!

Almost every runner will tell you that aches and pains are par for the course especially when you first start out, increase your workouts, or challenge yourself with a new goal or routine.  As you continue to run and push your body to new limits it is almost inevitable that at some point you will sustain some type of injury.

When I started running, I thought all I had to do was just get out there and run.  However, after incurring my first injury relatively quickly, I realized there actually is a science to running.  I then read all sorts of how-to running books and got advice from fellow runners. The information I gleaned helped me enjoy six months of really great running and races. Enough to get me hooked!  I then had a great first half marathon experience, and still on a running high, I signed up for my first marathon. It was during my marathon training that my long-term injuries began.  Since then I continue to go through the cycle of running highs and injury lows.

I have been running for almost two-and-a-half years now and I still feel like I am in the learning stage. My body has not taken as easily to running as I hoped and seems to be perpetually tweaked, strained, or flat out injured.  But never-the-less I sill love to run and will continue to do so for as long as I can.

So for all of you out there strapping on your running shoes for the first time, or those like me, who sometimes feel that they are made of glass, here are a few things I have found  helpful to get me up and running again when injury strikes.

Carissa's worn out shoes at 500 miles
1) Find the right shoe.  When I first started running I tried to get by with my standard tennis shoe. I thought, "They are name brand, they should work." Boy was I wrong! Wearing shoes that did not support my foot correctly contributed to my first injury.  I then went to every running store in town to get analyzed. I bought, test ran, and exchanged many of the shoes they suggested before finding the right shoes for me.  Once you find the right shoe, replace them when they wear out or accumulate 400-500 miles.  I’m pretty sure going too long before I replaced my shoes has played a part in an injury or two. I'll admit it.  I'm cheap. But I learned the hard way that you can't always go cheap with your running shoes. Shoes are a runner's main instrument. So make sure you invest in some high quality ones.

2) Start slow.  Whether you’re just starting to run or coming back from an injury be sure to gradually work up your distance and speed.  Don't do what I did and sign up for every race as soon as running gets easier and more enjoyable.  I overdid it and wound up with fatigued and then strained muscles, which led to an overuse injury.

3) Run your own race – even if you never enter a race.  It is good to have running role models who inspire us and even motivate us to leave our comfort zone, try something new, or push a little harder. But remember your running is just as unique as you are. What works for someone else may not work for you.  In the past I have gotten injured by pushing myself to train with runners at a more advanced level than I was ready for. I have learned that as inspired as I am by my rock star sole sisters Carissa and Jodi, my training and running style is very different from either of theirs.  So although we love to have an occasional sole sister bonding run, when it comes to hard core training it is wise for me to go with my own program and pace.

4) Get to know your body and listen to what it is telling you.   PUSH when you feel ready, FUEL with what makes you feel good and helps you to naturally perform your best, and REST when you need it. Practice makes perfect on this one. Especially when it comes to your fuel. Make sure you practice eating and drinking different things on your training runs and do not try something new on race day.  Thank goodness I found out what my homemade energy gel of honey and molasses does to my stomach ahead of time, so on race day I could focus on running to the finish instead of to the port-a-potties!

Jodi stretching before a race
5) Stretch.  Running tightens your muscles, which shortens them. Before your run, do some dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching involves performing low-intensity movements that will loosen you up, such as jogging with high knees.  After a run - when your body and muscles are nice and warm - is the best time to do static stretches. Static stretches involve no movement and are more of a "stretch and hold," such as bending to touch your toes. Static stretches improve flexibility, loosen, and lengthen your muscles back out.  I have been told by both my massage therapist and my physical therapist that I have the tightest quadriceps they have ever seen. Therefore stretching is a must for me. However, be sure to stretch only until you feel the stretch and not pain. Unfortunately I have overdone it and given myself some pulled muscles by overstretching in the past.

6) Cross train.  Find a style of cross training that works well for you. Because I am an injury-prone runner, swimming has been a good alternative for me.  Swimming gives me a total body workout and helps with my lung capacity and breathing, all while giving my sore body a break through the gravity-defying water. If you can’t swim, try water aerobics or water running. Core strength is also very important to good running form.  There are many different types of core strengthening workouts besides the good old crunches such as, Pilates, Yoga, or even Ballet.

Carissa in an ice bath after a long run
7) When you are injured, RICE is nice.  R.I.C.E. stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This home treatment can relieve pain, reduce swelling, and protect the injury from further aggravation. Because of my genetics most of my injuries, no matter how minor, have resulted in a problem with inflammation. I generally have moving aches and pains all day long in my joint areas like my knees and hips depending on where the inflammation is flaring up. To date I have not found a really great way to alleviate this. However, I have noticed it lessened by practicing RICE, especially in the form of ice baths after a long run or a race.

Me demonstrating how to use the foam roller

8)  Massages are your friend.  If you're working hard to be healthy, it is nice to treat yourself every once in a while to a massage. Regular massages have many health benefits including helping circulation and reducing the likelihood of injury by keeping your muscles loose and lengthened, and releasing sticky muscle fibers that are otherwise very hard to reach.  I have a wonderful massage therapist. However, as much as I’d love to get a massage every two weeks or at least once a month, my budget doesn’t always allow that. So what is the next best thing? My foam roller. I love my foam roller! All I had to do was invest $30.00 and I can get a massage every night. And believe me I do! I wholeheartedly believe that if I did not roll out my muscles as much as I do, I’d suffer even more injuries. My husband has even jokingly commented that at times he is jealous of my foam roller!

9) Let the professionals help.  When all else has failed and your nagging injury has lasted three or more weeks it may be time to go see a professional. Whether it is a Physical Therapist, a Chiropractor, an Orthopedist, or some other type of sports injury specialist, there are times when the injury is too specialized or too severe to correct itself. I am currently in my second round of Physical Therapy to combat the muscle imbalance that is causing my super tight quads.

10) Don’t let your injury get you down.  As you can see, I am no stranger to running injuries. Yes, there have been many times I have looked longingly at the runners on the road as I sit with my knee taped and of bag of ice around it. As much as I would love to be out there running, it is not always an option for me. I do my best to stay positive and use the downtime to strengthen other aspects of myself.

All of life is a journey with mountain highs and valley lows. The way I see it, running is a gift and I will continue to enjoy it for as long as I can keep my body movin’ down the road.


  1. I bought a foam roller too you got me hooked. It has almost cured my back problems. I roll everyday!

    1. Yay Shelby! I'm so happy that it is working for you and that you are feeling better. Happy Rolling!