How do I (foam) roll?

One of the things that my marathon training experience so much smoother was the fact that I was really diligent with my foam rolling. After every single workout or run, I was on my foam rollers for at least ten minutes. But foam rolling has now fallen to the side and I’m starting to feel those spots get tight again. So today, as part of my November goal to get back to foam rolling after every run, I’m sharing my foam rolling routine.

My Foam Rollers

First off, I have three different foam rollers. Now I don’t use all three foam rollers every time (unless I have a particularly tight spot) so I wanted to share what I have and when I use them.

Roller Stick

This is my go-to roller for my calves, it’s so much easier to get at them at different angles and with more pressure than using a regular foam roller. Which is great for me because the fascia over my calf muscles tends to become too stiff and cause problems for me. I didn’t find this out until my first massage appointment and Valerie suggested using a roller stick on my calves to help out between massages. And if you don’t have roller stick, you can use a rolling pin to do the same thing!

36” high density foam roller

This foam roller stays at home all the time and is my main foam roller at home. It’s big enough that I can easily roll out my back and is just the right firmness. The one thing I hate when foam rolling (and why, apart from the gross factor of communal rollers, I don’t use the gym ones) is soft foam rollers. I foam roll because I need it to dig into my muscles and a soft roller just doesn’t cut it for me.

13” grid foam roller

This is my travel foam roller that I bring along to the gym (along with my roller stick) to avoid using the gross, soft foam rollers that are laying around. It’s a lot harder to roll out my back shoulders with this one because of it’s size but it’s perfect for travel and rolling out my legs. I’ll also use it at home if I have a particularly tight spot that I can’t get into with my stick or large foam roller.

Now that we’ve gone through what foam rollers I have, here’s how I foam roll after a run! I don’t go for a specific time per part, I just work on what feels right for as long as it takes to loosen up.

Calves (with roller stick)

I start out using the roller stick on my calves since they are usually my tightest spot and need extra attention. With the roller stick, I try to get at them from multiple angles and put as much pressure as I can handle.

Quads (with roller stick)


My quads are another area that tend to be tight after a run so I get at them with the roller stick too. Similar to calves, I roll them at multiple angles.

Calves (with foam roller)


Back to it on the calves! I try to go slow when I use a foam roller and pay attention to the spots that I feel extra pain when rolling. I go over those spots multiple times to workout what’s going on there, including using the roller stick again if I need to.

Quads (with foam roller)

This is where I really feel that foam rolling is really effective, I feel the pain when do I roll my quads. Probably because I put more pressure this way than using the roller stick.

Hamstrings (with foam roller)

Usually my hamstrings don’t feel tight to me (compared to my quads and calves) until I start rolling them. I can always feel them loosening up!

Glutes (with foam roller)

Between running and my increased weights (all the squats and deadlifts!), I’m feeling it more when I foam roll my glutes. I usually do one side at the time (putting an ankle on the opposite knee to get in deeper) and make sure to go slow!

Shoulders/Back (with foam roller)


Again, with how much more I’m focusing on lifting, foam rolling my back and shoulders feels so good. I don’t foam roll my lower back since pain in that area can be caused by tightness in the glutes and hip flexors. I focus on those areas instead and avoid putting pressure on my lower back.

And that’s how I roll! How do you roll?