Dr. Vonda Wright

“Go buy a foam roller,” these are words I commonly say to most of my athletes of all ages and skill levels.  Foam rolling is a marvelous way to stretch your tight tendons and muscles and work out your problem areas before activity.  Essentially, the log of hard foam serves as a rolling pin to break up the small adhesions and scar tissue that can bind you up while increasing blood flow to the problem area.  I find this tool especially good for stretching hard-to-stretch tissue like the IT (iliotibial) band, which runs down the side of your legs from hip to knee, and muscles of the legs.

Nothing could be simpler than laying on the roller and pulling your body slowly back and forth across the roller with your upper body.  Many find foam rolling hurts while you do it, but I tell my patients that it “hurts so good” and is worth it when you are done.

The most common areas to foam roll are the ITB, quads, hamstrings, adductors, buttocks and calves.

1. Place the roller of foam directly under the muscle group to be rolled.
2. Place your full body weight on the roller.
3. Pull your body back and forth slowly over the roller using your upper body.
4. Roll five times over each muscle group.  Repeat on the opposite side.

The Dynamic Warm-up

Like many life-long runners who learned developed our habits as kids, I spent years wasting the first couple miles of every workout getting warmed up before I hit my real stride.  I usually dreaded that period from “shoes on” to “in the zone.”  Now, older and wiser I teach all my runners to do a running specific dynamic warm up before a workout to minimize injury and make every mile or circuit count.

Warming up is more than just raising our body temperature and there is an optimum time and technique to prepare our muscle and joints for exertion. A sport-specific dynamic warm up increases exercise economy and may reduce injury.

A good warm up will increase blood flow to active muscles, allow for efficient contraction and relaxation of both contracting (agonist) and relaxing (antagoist) muscles, lower tight tendon and muscle resistance to motion, increase muscle temperature and therefore oxygen delivery and jumpstart muscle metabolism for action.

Dynamic stretching/warm-up is utilized to take the exerciser from relatively “cold” to “warm” and ready to go.  In dynamic movements, a muscle is lengthened and then a contraction occurs in the lengthened position, providing more functional range of motion. Traditional Static Stretching should be reserved for the end of a workout.

Dynamic warm-ups are sport specific and mobilize the movement patterns, muscles, joints and panes of motion needed for the specific activities. The dynamic warm up can serve as a workout in itself to improve strength, power and agility.

For Runners, the Dynamic warm-up increases muscle and joint range of motion, increases blood supply, gets the heart pumping and allows the athlete to maximize the efficacy of their run/workout instead of wasting the first 1-2 miles of their run just to warm-up.

By Dr. Vonda Wright

Sponsored by Willow Valley Communities

To read more about the first steps for living an active life at any age, read Fitness After 40: Your STRONG Body at 40, 50, 60 and Beyond!  The book also contains fantastic real life stories of Dr. Wright’s patients who are taking control of their aging through mobility and exercise.


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