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Recovery is an important step in running to avoid injury and when done properly can lead to improved runs. One method used to help speed recovery is regular massages, but since we can’t go to the spa, we can do a little massage recovery on our own, in our own home with a Lacrosse ball. If you don’t already have one in your home, Gone For a Run offer these great Lacrosse Massage Recovery Balls which can be used the same way. What is great about doing this at home is that you can control how long and how much pressure you want for each of these exercises. Also, with these smaller balls we can get deep into the muscles and release tightness that shows up as knots in the body. Knots constrict blood flow so it is important that we try to release them and once we release those tight areas in your body, your body will thank you. Fair warning though, sometimes rolling can be uncomfortable depending on just how tight your muscles have become, so we will start at the top and work our way down to our feet. Let's get started!
Sit upright and place the ball at the base of the neck on the upper trapezius. You want to keep it at the top of the shoulder blade and approximately 1” away from the spine. We never want to roll on the bones, we want to roll and open the muscles and fascia between them. Press the ball into a tight area and hold it down for up to 30 seconds. Release the pressure and roll the ball back and forth. If you find another knot here, repeat the hold. Once you feel you have released any tension in this side, repeat on the other.
When trying to open the upper back, we want to follow the upper trapezius and avoid rolling on any bones. Keep the ball to the outside of the shoulder blade, staying above the bone, and off the spine. Lay down on the mat or floor with the ball in place. It may move as you lay down so adjust as needed. Once you have the ball in a secure spot, start to move the arm to massage the area. After about 30 seconds of rolling, hold the arm out to the side, or above the head, and breathe to help release the tension. After you feel you have released the knots, switch to the other side and repeat the same steps.
Now that we have opened the upper back, let's move toward the mid-back. Take the ball and place is about 4-5 inches down the back, staying approximately 1” to the side of the spine, and next the shoulder blade. Lay on the floor with the ball in place and move the arm on the side of the body. Slowly start to move the arm and make circular motions to perform self-massage and open the scapula.
Our gluteus maximus is a power force for us runners so we need to be sure and give it some special attention. Given that it’s such a large muscle, you could roll this area out for a few minutes. Lay back and place the ball under the top of the buttocks and lean your weight into it to add pressure. You can stay here and hold the ball or windshield wiper the knees for added massage. Keep the ball pressing into one tight spot for up to 30 seconds and then move on to the next point. Be careful that you don’t add tension anywhere else such as the shoulders as you roll through this. Play around with the positioning and see what feels best for your body. And remember that if something feels too intense, you are the one controlling the pressure so you can easily just back out at any time.
The piriformis can be a tough spot to release. If left too tight for too long, you will experience pain from your neck through your back and down your leg. It sits near the sciatic nerve. As it swells, it starts to put pressure on the nerve. This swelling causes not just pain down the side of the body but can also lead to numbness in tingling in the extremities.
To open the piriformis, which is located an inch outside the sacrum, the large triangular bone at the base of the spine, lay back and place the ball one inch to the side of the sacrum. You can position the legs in a figure 4 or stay as is, whichever allows for a deeper release. You can also roll around or move the knees side to side for additional massage on the ball. The second trigger point for the piriformis located outside the hip where your hip and leg intersect (also called the trochanter). Once you release the inside, try rolling the outside so you hit both trigger points for the most relief.
Sit on the floor with legs extended. Place the ball under the thigh along the hamstring. Starting from the top, closest to the buttocks, and roll down towards the knee. Notice any spots that feel tight and hold the ball in that spot for 20-30 seconds. Once you feel a release continue down the leg until the hamstring feels open. Repeat on the left side.
The calf muscles are easily overloaded by everyday activities and running. Using the lacrosse ball on the calves will not only release tension there, but also in the foot, ankle and even knee. The gastrocnemius is the larger muscle that runs from the knee to the heel. If you have tight calves it is helpful to roll back over this large muscle with a ball and focus on tighter, smaller areas.
Start in a seated position. Place the ball on the inside of the calf. Once you find a tight spot, you can hold the ball there applying as much pressure as feels appropriate. Once you release, roll back over the same area and then find the next tight spot. If you have very tight calves, or experience knee pain, continue with this movement on a few more spots before moving to the outside of the calves.
From a seated position, take the ball and roll up and down the outside of the calf. The peroneals start in the calf and connect to the tendons in the foot so if you have any discomfort or tightness in the ankle, concentrate on this area. Massage the area by rolling the ball up and down spending more time in areas that need it. Be gentle as you are going between tendons and muscle and the goal is release tension, not to cause any damage or pain. By opening the calves, inside and out, your next run should have faster recovery and your gait should even improve!
Our feet need TLC since we use them every day and every run. This recovery technique will give you immediate relief from any tension with the added benefits of acupressure. From a standing position, place the ball under the foot and start to roll from toes to heel. Notice where you are holding any tension. Pick a spot and hold the ball at the pressure point. Begin to shift weight from standing leg to pressure point, remember you can shift back to ease out if it feels too intense. Take deep breaths in and out for up to 20 seconds then go back to rolling ball up and down the sole of the foot. Continue working through until foot feels open and then repeat on the side.
Need a lacrosse ball of your own? Check out Gone For a Run's site where there are options to customize and engrave your own lacrosse ball.
Happy running friends!
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