Foam Rolling to Release Muscle Aches and Pains

Over the last two months, I’ve focused this column on running programs. Well, the running community is probably a little stiff right now with thousands completing the Portland Full and Half Marathon on October 5th and the Girlfriends Run for a Cure on October 12th as well as many other local runs.  So we’ve probably got a number of people feeling a little tight and walking a little funny. So I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to discuss the merits of Self-Myofascial Release using Foam Rollers – a perfect way to help release tight areas for runners and athletes of all kinds!  I’m a firm believer in the importance of body work such as massage as well as daily foam rolling if you are extremely active. It’s the support your body needs to be able to continue doing what you want for years and years! You can purchase a foam roller at most fitness equipment retailers as well as many department stores.

General Guidelines for Self-Myofascial Release:

  1. Perform the specific techniques as described below.
  2. Once you roll over a tight area, you can use one of two techniques:
    1. Pressure Point – Stop rolling and rest on tight area for 20-30 seconds while breathing slow and deep. Hold to the point of tolerance.  It may feel uncomfortable – like a really deep massage – but you should not experience any sharp pain. Once completed, roll to the next tight area.
    2. Kneading – When you find a tight area, roll back and forth over that area, kneading the tissue until the tension releases or subsides. Remember to breath slow and deep.
  3. Complete a specific technique for about 1-2 minutes each side and avoid bouncing.
  4. Maintain proper posture and contract your abdominals to help stabilize your low back while rolling.
  5. These techniques can be done 1-2 times daily and can be done before or after a workout.

Here are my favorite Myofascial  Release Techniques:


IT Band

stretch foam roller itb 1Lie on the right side supported by the right elbow and maintain head in neutral and ears aligned with shoulders.  Place roller under right thigh and place left leg over and in front of the right leg.  Roll just below hip joint down to the lateral thigh to the knee.






stretch foam roller hipsPiriformis/Glutes

Sit on full roller and cross right ankle over left knee.  Roll on the right hip area while pulling the right knee towards the opposite shoulder to increase the stretch.  To massage the glutes, sit on the roller with feet and hands in front of roller.  Push roller backwards with buttocks.









stretch foam roller quads 2Lie on your belly with the foam roller above knees and elbows bent with forearms touching the floor.  Pull abdominals in and tighten glutes to help prevent the back from sagging.  Roll from pelvic bone to the knee emphasizing the front and lateral thigh.



You can also use a hard ball like a Lacrosse ball to focus in on smaller areas like your calves or to get deep into your hips or a golf ball to roll and release your feet.

Note:  We are offering a FREE “Muscle & Tissue Release for Runners” workshop on Tuesday October 28th at 7:00pm at Northwest Personal Training, 1011 Broadway, Vancouver WA 98660.  Call 360.574.7292 to reserve your space. 

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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