Peppy Steps & Workouts

The 12 Minute Foam Rolling Routine for Every Runner

Every runner can benefit from some weekly (or daily) quality time with a foam roller. I don’t care if you’re a beginner runner training for your first 5K, the recreational treadmill jogger or an elite prepping for the Olympics, in my book, foam rolling is a must! It’s one of those things that hurts so good (if you already foam roll, you know what I mean).

I’m sharing my go-to foam rolling routine that I try to do a few times a week. I always make sure to foam roll the day before a race and right after hard workouts. Other than that, I use my roller as needed. It’s a quick way to improve your recovery after you have stressed your body as it helps to lengthen your muscles and work through any tightness or soreness. This routine usually only takes me about 12 minutes, although you can make it take as much or as little time as you want, so it’s easy to work into your busy schedule.

General Foam Rolling Tips:

  1. Make sure you roll through each movement slowly so you can feel the pressure of the roller as it glides across your muscles.
  2. If you aren’t used to foam rolling or if your muscles are tight, this will hurt! Embrace the pain (as long as you’re not feeling any pinching or burning).
  3. That being said, if you do hit a particularly tight spot as you roll out a muscle, pause and hold yourself on that exact point for at least 30 seconds. This static pressure should help ease the tightness.

Calves

Alrighty, let’s start things off by doing some work on those lower legs. Start sitting with your legs out and the foam roller under your ankles. Cross one leg over the other at the ankles to focus on one calf at a time. Place your hands on the ground behind you and lift yourself up. Push yourself forward so the foam roller moves from under your ankles to just below your knee. Then roll back to the start. Continue this 5-10 times or as needed. Switch your legs so that your other ankle is crossed and repeat.

Hamstrings

Time to move to the upper part of your legs. Stay in the same position with the foam roller under your legs but move it so it starts just above the knees. Cross one leg over the other at the thigh so you can apply more pressure. This time, roll your body towards the roller until it reaches the top of your hamstrings (that’s about where your butt is). Now pull your body away from the roller so that it reaches your starting place. Continue 5-10 times or as needed. Then, switch your legs so that the other thigh is crossed and repeat.

Butt

This is a more recent addition to my routine. For this exercise you will need to sit on the foam roller with your feet placed on the ground in front of you. Cross one leg over in front of your knee, so that it is resting on your thigh. Roll back and forth as you target your one butt cheek – I know it’s weird but if you have just finished a hill workout or a set of squats, this feels really good! This will be a much smaller movement that the other exercises. Roll 5-10 times or as needed. You know the drill by now: switch your legs and do the same of the other side.

Back

This part of the routine is my absolute favorite! I have always had back problems and I love seizing any opportunity I have to get some treatment. Fair warning: you may hear some cracking as you do this. Also, before you start, make sure you have your hair pulled to the side or in a bun you so it doesn’t get caught as you roll. Start with the roller under your lower back with your arms crossed so your hands touch your shoulders and your feet placed on the ground in front of you. Roll forward towards your feet as you feel the roller work from your lower to upper back and your body sinks closer to the ground. When you reach the beginning of your neck, roll back up to the start by pushing away with your feet and repeat 5-10 times.

IT Bands

Oh the joy! This exercise definitely hurts the worst, in my opinion. Start by turning onto one side with your bottom leg straight on the ground and your top leg crossed over so that your foot makes contact with the ground. The foam roller should be placed under your bottom leg, just below your hip. Put both hands on the ground in front of you so that they cross over your body, like your leg. Roll your body by pushing away with your foot so the foam roller travels down your leg to just above your knee. Roll back and do 5-10 repetitions. Once you are ready, switch sides to target your other IT band and do the same exercise on the other side.

Thighs

Next, flip onto your stomach and place the foam roller under your hips. You can position yourself so you target one leg at a time, but I find it easier to work both thighs at once for this time. Place your elbows and lower arms on the ground in front of you and pull yourself forward so you move the foam roller down the length of your thighs and back again. Do this 5-10 times total.

Problem Areas

This last part is optional but I like to take a little time to focus on my individual “problem areas.” I pulled my hamstring three times while I was competing in college so I make sure to take any steps I can to prevent this from happening again since I am so susceptible to this particular injury. I use my mini Trigger Point roller to really massage my upper hamstring and pinpoint the scar tissue I have there. You can do the same thing using a tennis ball or lacrosse ball or just go over the area you need again with your regular foam roller.

Save it/pin it for later:

I hope you enjoy this routine and you find it useful to work into your weekly training schedule. Let me know your feedback when you try it out! If you already use a foam roller, what’s your favorite exercise that “hurts so good”?

*Huge shout out to my sister and Mom for helping me take these photos not one, not two, but three times after a case of bad lighting and a round of deleted photos. Thanks for photographing an awkward person do an awkward activity. I owe you both!

8 Comments

  1. I love this routine! Perfect for when I start training for my 10-miler. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Lizzy

      Thanks, Jewels! Rolling will definitely help you stay healthy and strong during your training. What race are you doing? You’ll have to keep me updated with your progress.

  2. I love how thoroughly you explained it. I haven’t foam rolled before but have heard that it is a great thing to do!

    1. Lizzy

      Hi Bonnie, I’m glad you liked this post! You should definitely give foam rolling a try, especially as you train for a half marathon (and possibly full marathon) this year. Let me know if you want any more tips!

  3. This is an awesome tutorial, Lizzy! My mom’s always reminding me to foam roll after I run and I need to do a better job being consistent about it.IT bands are definitely the worst! But I feel like it does help so much.

    1. Lizzy

      Thanks, Liv! Foam rolling hurts so much, especially when you’re targetting the IT bands, but it definitely gets better the more you do it! And I agree with you, I always feel better on my next run after I take the time to do it. Let me know if you try this routine! 🙂

  4. foam rolling is the best 🙂 i used to do it daily, but now only do it a few times a week (though i should do it daily!) i looove it because i have such tight hamstrings and a very knotty back.
    besides what you said, i always separate low back/upper back, and do a lot of trigger points. try picking up you legs when rolling your glutes and really getting the sides/your hips! 🙂

    1. Lizzy

      Yes! It’s one of those things that we should all do more…

      I love your tips to help roll out specific tight spots – I’ll have to try that next time I foam roll. Hamstrings and back are my tricky spots too.

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