Are You Loving The Foam Roller?

A couple weeks ago we had a post with 4 Good Cycling Stretches.  These are our picks for keeping those cycling legs of yours all loose and performing the way they should.  Following the post, our Loving the Bike pal, @StevieDexter asked if we could suggest some post ride self massage tactics for the legs.  I told him about the foam roller and he was immediately sold and set out to get one. Then he asked, “how do I use it?”  Well, Stevie….get ready for some oh so good pain.

It’s pretty hard to find a cyclist (or any athlete) who doesn’t have a tight Iliotibial Band (IT Band).  The iliotibial band is a strong, thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of the leg. It starts at the hip and runs along the outer thigh and attaches on the outside edge of the shin bone (tibia) just below the knee joint. The reason why cyclists often experience IT Band tightness is because it works with the quadriceps to provide stability to the outside of the knee joint during movement…..and you know how much moving the knee joint is doing during a ride, right?

But the IT Band is a tough little sucker to stretch out properly, and for that reason I didn’t include it in the cycling stretch post.  But there is a great way to massage/stretch the IT Band, and the way to do it is with a foam roller.  I love using my foam roller and it’s an incredible way to loosen up the IT and the rest of the legs…but be warned, a great deal of pain is often included in the process (but that good sort of pain).

I’ve done up a video to show how to use the foam roller for the IT Band massage as well as some other uses you may find handy.

Roll up and down the IT Band gently.  When you find a tight (usually painful) area, stop rolling and “hang out” there for 30-45 seconds, or until pain decreases by about 75%.

Have you ever experienced IT Band tightness?  Have you ever used a foam roller (@T_Starry knows about the good loving pain it can cause, don’t you Tim)? Let us hear about your foam roller experiences.

  • Andrew

    What size roller are you using please? There seem to be a number available and I’m not sure which is the best to get.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Hi Andrew,

      I personally prefer the standard foam roller which is 6″ x 36″ and a medium firmness. Although there are several options for size and firmness, I believe this is the standard you’ll find in most places. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Kris

    I use a foam roller on a regular basis, and it is truly a blessing. This video was spot on to what I do, I add the calf stretch, and shins, as well as the quads, and glutes. Foam rollers can be used on the entire body as long as you avoid the joints. And like its been said in your post, when you fight a tight spot, hold there until it releases. If you stick with it, and roll on a regular basis, you wont have as many knots to work out. Kris (200hr Yoga RYT and Cyclist)

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Thanks Kris… might be a little painful at times, but the foam roller sure is great.

  • Loving the Bike

    Hey Jim and Cassi….yeah, my Wife told me I should re-shoot the video so that the toys weren’t seen in the background. But Loving the Bike is all about Raw, Fresh, and completely honest materia….so there is no room for re-takes around here. Glad you guys had a laugh. Keeping it real.


  • Jim

    D, I too caught the tidy group of toys in the background… combined with something that looked like Santa’s hat next to a globe on your desk, I suspect you are the infamous @loadedsanta (warning tweets from this Santa are not office friendly).

    Joking aside, I’ve had IT band problems before and once it flares up it is nasty to keep away. It caused me to cancel marathon plans a few years back. I’ve never used the roller, and my IT problems have not come back since (I’m knocking on fake wood right now) but I may have to look into it as mileage increases for the Twin Cities Marathon in October… so thanks for this info!

  • Tony

    I’ve never seen one of those before but it looks like it would work those painful areas after a long ride. I feel it more so cause I have 3 flights of stairs in my house. Maybe this foam roller will keep me from begging the wife for something upstairs? HA.

  • Cassi

    Great video, D! I may have to get one of these – can think of lots of stretching uses (cycling, swimming). Very nice illustration on how to use for IT Band. I have found – especially as I age – stretching makes such a difference.

    On a side note – it was great to see/hear the “live” version of you, and I laughed out loud (literally) when I glimpsed the tidy little group of toys in the background for a moment, the little FP garage. Oh memories! :) Awesome cyclist AND dad! Thanks for the smiles!

  • Tim

    Foam roller: call the governor and tell him I said “ow”