The Stick is an excellent complement to running and weight lifting because it can help you prevent injuries, speed recovery time, and improve flexibility and performance. The Stick can be used solo or with help from a partner. For self-massage, it’s best applied to the lower body while you should ask a partner to do the upper body.Keep reading below for pics and explanation for best methods for runners.
The purpose of The Stick is to allow you to do regular self-myofascial release, which means finding and releasing the knots that build up in your muscles due to repetitive physical activities that affect certain areas of the body depending on your chosen activities. Dissipating these knots and adhesions allows the muscles to be as healthy and balanced as possible, thus preventing those little nags and muscle aches from turning into debilitating overuse injuries.
Basic Instructions to use The Stick:
Roll the Stick up and down the full length of any particular muscle. Start with light pressure and gradually increase the pressure to your personal tolerance. Execute 20 full length rolls on each muscle group. When you find any painful areas or knots, you should pause from the full length rolls, and dig in to the target area, using a “kneading” motion with as much pressure as you can tolerate.
Specialized Instructions for Runners:
With running regularly there are very specific muscle groups likely to be affected:
Running: hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, IT band, and calves (and ligaments that connect calves into heels)
IT Band (illiotibial band) – thick ligament that runs from hip to knee and provides lateral stabilization. This is another minefield of knots and adhesions for runners. Keep this area clear to avoid the dreaded IT Band Syndrome Injuries.
Hip Flexor: with bent leg to allow the hip flexor to relax, find notch under the front point of the hip (iliac crest) and position stick in that groove, working down and outward towards upper thigh. The area a couple inches below the hip crest and slightly to the outer side tends to really be tough and bunched for runners, and you should really focus some time here every day to smooth it out. This will help prevent inhibited range of motion coming from the hips, which affects the alignment for the rest of your lower body putting you at risk for knee/ankle injuries.
The quadriceps femoris group that we call quads for short is actually made up of 4 different muscles so when you use the Stick on your quads, make sure you are doing 20 rolls on the top, 20 rolls slightly left of top, and 20 rolls slightly right of top. This one is best done sitting with legs (I prefer the couch) outstretched so this muscle group can be completely relaxed while you roll it.
Like the quads, the hamstrings consist of a group of muscles so when you roll here, be sure to roll 20 times on different angles on the back. Here it is shown from a kneeling position. The other preferred position at my house is the couch position, kicked back with leg in air.
Again, more than one muscle makes up what we call the calves. Change your angle and be sure to roll 20 times on each different angle. Watch out for hot spots down in the middle, such as in pic below, as this is the area where your calves connect into the ligaments that connect into the ankles, heels, and feet. Many disorders of the feet and ankles (think plantar fascitis, arch pain) that are made worse by running can be alleviated or prevented by keeping this area of your calves healthy and free of knots.
Static Stretching After the Stick
After completing the Stick routine is the perfect time to work on your flexibility with some old fashioned static stretching. I say that because when you have knots built up in your muscles, it inhibits your ability to stretch properly so after you have applied some direct pressure into those knots, you may be able to get that healthy muscle tissue to respond a little better and improve your flexibility. The more flexible and supple your muscles, the less likely the injuries. Static stretching is anything of the reach and hold variety, go for 10-15 seconds, relaxing, breathing deeply. Try to select one good stretch for each major muscle group.