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Sometimes Simple Is Best!
If you were to look at the history of massage, you’d quickly realize that everything was pretty much manual. Back in the old days, the Chinese, Egyptians, and Indians hardly used any tools to get the job done. Massage was mostly all done by hand. Fast forward to the 21st century and it wouldn’t take a genius to see just how much things have changed. These days we have all sorts of massagers and massage equipment, ranging from $5000 full body massage chairs to $5 spiky foot massage balls. Quite incredible how far we’ve come! But it begs to ask the question:
How effective are modern day massagers? And how do they compare to the old way of doing things?
I very recently purchased a massage chair, but I don’t expect it to replace my monthly sessions at the massage clinic. Modern day massagers are incredibly effective, there’s no doubt about that. However, they do have their limitations. There are things a therapist can do that an automated massager just can’t.
But What About Massage Rollers?
Massage rollers shouldn’t be considered a modern day tool. Even though you may think otherwise, rollers have been around for quite a while. According to Physical Culture Study, foam rollers were first used in the 1980’s (source: Physical Culture Study). Since then they’ve become incredibly popular, so much so that most massage clinics use them.
What’s more important is the change of mindset that has come about with the inception of rollers. It has helped create an entirely new niche called self massage/treatment. What’s cool about self massage is it’s quick, convenient, easy, highly effective, and incredibly cheap. Massage rollers in that sense have changed the game!
Are You An Athlete? Here’s How A Massage Roller Can Help!
Everyone should own a massage roller, but if you’re an athlete you have zero excuses. Here’s 3 reasons to get one!
#1 Rolling Reduces Soreness Significantly
The sensation of rolling is quite different from massage. Some would say it’s actually quite painful; I can vouch for that! Even though rolling is not the most pleasant experience, it’s an incredibly effective way of reducing muscle soreness. How so you ask? Thinking about it intuitively, rolling is just a way to help stretch muscles. This stretching of muscle releases knots and relieves tightness.
Are you familiar with the term DOMS? It’s likely you are if you’re big into working out. DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness, and it’s this pain we’re oh so familiar with. The kind of pain you experience hours to days after completing a strenuous workout. It’s the same pain runners experience days after completing a marathon. Yup, that’s DOMS.
Some call it “sweet pain” because it’s usually an indication of a successful workout session. I, on the other hand dread the DOMS, not because of its pain but mostly because it renders my muscles useless until I fully recover from the soreness. Foam rolling has been proven to significantly reduce DOMS. Don’t believe me? Check out this research paper on the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) website!
#2 It Reduces Recovery Time
By far my favorite benefit of rolling is that it decreases the time required for my muscles to recover and heal. How so? The very motion of rolling draws blood and improves circulation. As a result, you bring in more of the good stuff AKA blood with nutrients, and get rid of the bad AKA toxins, lactic acid etc. The outcome is reduced soreness, and quick and speedy muscle recovery. Next time you sign yourself up for that half marathon, remember to include frequent rolling in your routine!
#3 It’s An Awesome Alternative, If You’re Broke!
If you’re broke or on a budget, roll away and save some cash while you’re at it! Compared to the alternatives, a decent rolling stick will run you about $20 or less, and that’s not even the best part. Because of how simple the theory is, rolling can be done on the back, neck, legs, and arms! The alternatives, which are to either buy an automated electric massager, or to visit a therapist, cost significantly more.
9 Things To Look Out For When Choosing A Roller!
Picking out a roller can be quite confusing. It doesn’t help that one roller can be completely different from another. Size, length, density, material, and weight are just some of the things to consider. So what should you look for when buying a massage roller specifically for runners? Keep reading to see!
The 3 Best Massage Rollers For Runners!
Runners are a different breed. We can’t rely on large diameter foam rollers; we need to be able to whip something out from our backpack to start rolling right away. That being said, below are 3 of my best massage rollers for runners!
#1 Elite Muscle Roller Stick
Good things come in small packages. Ever heard that one? It definitely applies here!
The Good Stuff (AKA Pros)
Slightly Longer Than My Ruler!
At 18” long, the elite muscle roller stick is only slightly longer than my ruler, and that makes me relieved. Why relieved you ask? Because now I don’t need to worry about carrying an excessively large bag whenever I train. In fact, it’s short enough to even slip into my casual backpack. Whoever says rollers are bulky and inconvenient obviously haven’t seen this!
And It Doesn’t Weigh Much Either
8 ounces is all this weighs. That’s about a quarter of a kilogram almost. Is weight all that important? More than you think!
- If you’re a runner, the lighter your gear the better. Nobody wants to be hauling around kilograms worth of rollers!
- Because these rollers are handheld (unlike traditional foam rollers), a lightweight stick is easier to roll, and easier on the wrists compared to a heavier one.
Comfy, Grippy Handles!
Don’t know about you, but I’m usually sweating buckets after a run. Rolling with sweaty hands is about as frustrating as threading a needle. Well maybe not quite, but you get the point! That’s why grippy handles are so important. They ensure a smooth, consistent roll every single time. No more awkward slips!
A Good 10 Inches (Approximately) Of Rolling Length!
When it comes to roller sticks, picking the right length is always a tricky task. Pick something too short, and you have issues rolling larger muscles (such as those in the back). Pick something too long, and you lose out on portability. Most people consider this, but they forget something very important: how much of the total length can actually be used for rolling? A portion of the overall length will be taken up by the handles, and it’s important to consider the remainder. This stick has about a good 10 inches of rolling length, which is more than enough if you ask me!
The Roller Wheels Move
Not ashamed to say, I’ve got hairy legs! If you’re a guy, you can definitely relate. Ever used a roller on your legs and then screamed in agony because it almost yanked/pulled your hair right out!? If you have, know that you’re not alone my friend. I’m not sure why this happens, but I think it’s because the roller wheels don’t spin freely. At least that’s what I suspect it is. Anyways, with this roller, hair pull isn’t a problem, as each wheel moves freely and independently!
The Bad Stuff (AKA Cons)—Nothing!
I’ve looked long and hard trying to find something I dislike about this roller stick…..and I can’t which is very unlike me because I’m usually quite picky. But maybe you can help me! If you own this stick, what are your thoughts? Have you discovered any drawbacks or shortcomings? If you have, please leave a comment and let me know. It’ll help us all!
Is this the best massage roller for runners? It is if you’re on a tight budget, that’s for sure. That being said, I highly recommend you check it out!
#2 Original Tiger Tail Massage Stick
The perfect option if you’re looking for an ultra compact roller!
The Good Stuff (AKA Pros)
The Fact That It Comes In 3 Different Sizes!
I love the fact that this stick is sold in 3 different sizes:
- The Roadster—11 inches long
- The Classic—18 inches long
- The Long One—22 inches long
For me personally, 18 inches is the perfect size. You get a good combination of sufficient rolling length and portability. However, I can see why some runners or athletes may be inclined to pick an even shorter 11 inch stick. The fact that it’s ultra compact makes it very easy to store, and therefore travel friendly.
Material and material density determines how intense a rolling massage is. Plastics are harder than foams and rubbers, so they result in a much more intense massage. The rolling material used for this stick is all foam. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend you consider a roller stick with a soft material like foam!
The 3 Year Warranty!
In case you haven’t realized, a roller stick can take quite the beating. Will it bend or break over time? Likely not, but it’s good to have a 3 year warranty just in case something does go wrong.
Ribbed Rubber Handles Make It Easy To Grip!
Remember when you were younger and got your first tricycle? Remember the handles on those? That’s what these look and feel like. They work and grip well even with sweaty palms!
The Bad Stuff (AKA Cons)
I Love Foam Roller Sticks, But…
As much as I love foam roller sticks, they do have their drawbacks:
- Incompatible With Oils/Ointments—I shouldn’t say incompatible, messy is the right word. Some foams soak up and retain oils, and that’s a bad bad thing. When the oil dries, it leaves a smell that’s really hard to get rid of. Also, i’m also pretty sure oil can damage the foam over time.
- Not As Simple To Clean—Compared to plastics, foam roller sticks are a bit of a pain to clean. You can wash it with water, and probably won’t have an issue. You may however have an issue drying the foam, and based on my experience it takes forever. Not saying this will be an issue for all foams, as some are obviously better than others!
Another awesome massage roller for runners! It’s a tad pricey compared to the competition, but overall a great product. If you’re looking for a more intense experience this is probably not gonna cut it. If you’re okay with a low to mild intensity, then go ahead and check it out!
#3 The Stick—Sprinter Stick
Did you really think I would end this post without discussing the most popular massage roller on the market!? “The Stick” is no ordinary roller!
The Good Stuff (AKA Pros)
It Is Waterproof!
Yup, i’m not kidding, this thing is waterproof. That means you can use it in a spa, or sauna if you feel adventurous!
And Did I Mention It’s Also Dishwasher Friendly?
Massage rollers and dishwasher friendly? That’s unheard of! Kudos to “The Stick” team for designing innovative products that save me from wasting time with cleanup. God knows how much I hate cleanup!
These Guys Are Dead Serious!
When it comes to massage rollers, these guys don’t mess around. Don’t believe me? Head over to their website and check out all the awards they’ve won over the years. Apparently there’s also research studies supporting the technology used on their products. Oh and here’s another small fact: they’ve been doing this for about 3 decades!
Well Thought Out Design
There’s 2 things I love most about The Sticks’ design:
- The Core Bends—The best massage roller is one that has a flexible core. Why? Simply because our body and muscles aren’t linear. Rollers that aren’t flexible don’t properly target the whole muscle, and that results in an uneven massage. A flexible core on the other hand can bend and adapt, so each muscle gets maximum massage and coverage.
- Many Small Rollers—Having multiple small rollers instead of one big one helps you better target trigger points. Not to mention, it’s a heck of a lot more effective!
If You’re Not Sure What To Get…
If you’re a runner, I recommend the sprinter stick. It’s been designed to specifically work the leg area, and because it’s small (19 inches), you can toss it with the rest of your gear. However if you want to take things to the next level, fill out this form on The Sticks’ website. They ask for height, weight and a couple other things and will actually evaluate your stats, and then advise what you should get. How cool is that!?
The Bad Stuff (AKA Cons)
It’s A Little Expensive!
As far as functionality is concerned, a full 10/10 from me. A superb product and in my mind this is the best massage roller for runners, or anyone for that matter. The downside is that it’s a little expensive.
I saved the best for last because this is the best massage roller hands down. What more can I say, if you can afford it, get it!
How To Properly Use A Massage Roller Stick
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about rolling, it’s that slow and steady wins the race. A controlled roll is much much more effective than a rushed roll. Slow it down, take your time and do it right. Your muscles will thank you!
There’s tons of awesome videos online demonstrating how to properly use a roller stick. Personally, I love all of “The Sticks'” instructional videos, as they take the time to explain the details. Below are 2 videos: the first showing how to use a roller stick on the calf, and the second on the hamstring (all credit to RaceForGood).
If you want to check out more instructional videos from “The Stick”, click here. Ultimately, there’s more than one way to roll, you just need to find the one that’s most comfortable for you. If you’re not getting the results you desire, don’t get discouraged, maybe you’re doing something wrong or your technique isn’t the most effective. Reevaluate, correct your mistakes, and practice till you get it!
3 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Rolling (FAQs)
Q1: How often should I roll?
To answer this question, i’ll ask you a question: do you think it would be wise to get a massage every single day for the rest of the year? Probably not, right? It’s overkill. Moderation is the key to living a healthy life, so try to avoid doing things in excess.
That being said, everyone is different. My routine for rolling may not suit you because our bodies and muscles are not the same. Find a routine that works best for you, and roll with it! (literally!)
Q2: Should I roll before or after a run?
I’ve contemplated the same question many a time before a soccer match. In my opinion, a light roll before a physically demanding activity is always a good idea. Think of it as a way of stretching and warming up the muscles.
Once you’re done with the activity, whether that be a soccer match or a marathon, here’s where you really wanna work those knots and trigger points. To answer the question: a light roll before, and a more focused roll after is an effective routine in my honest opinion.
Q3: What is the best massage roller for runners?
If you haven’t already, scroll above to check out 3 of my favorite roller sticks for runners. Even though they all have different price tags, all 3 are solid rollers that work really well. If I had to pick from the 3 and money wasn’t a factor, i’d lean towards “The Stick”.
If You Found This Useful, Please Share!
I hope you got some value out of today’s post. If there’s one key message i’d like you to leave with, it would be this:
Rolling is for everyone, not just athletes or runners!
Even if it’s not from the recommended 3 above, pick a roller and get yourself in the habit of rolling. The benefits are massive! Last but not least, if you enjoyed reading, please consider sharing on the socials. Leave me your questions and comments below!