If you’re like most runners, you probably have a love/hate relationship with your foam roller. This tool is part torture device, part tight muscle saviour. But in case you needed a reason to further complicate your feelings about the self-treatment tube, elite Canadian distance runner Kate Van Buskirk presents Foam Roller Core Exercises. With gyms closed and exercise equipment at a premium, why not use this runner’s staple to work on your strength and stability? The entire workout takes less than 10 minutes, leaving you lots of time to roll out that ITB afterward.
1. Plank roller
How: Get into a plank position with a flat back and the middle of your forearms resting on the foam roller. Without changing the position of your body, extend your arms away from, then close to your torso, rolling the FR along the lengths of your forearms. Keep your belly button pulled up towards your spine and your head neutral with your gaze looking down to the ground.
Why: Planks already work the full length of your core, from your hips to your chest. Adding the instability of the FR challenges these muscles further, keeping you strong when you start to break down on a run.
Modification: If you find a full plank too challenging, do the same exercise from a kneeling position.
2. Side plank rotations
How: Get into a side plank position with your forearm on the ground and your bottom leg resting on the foam roller. Keep your torso straight and long as you reach up, then under your body with your top arm.
Why: This is a full-body exercise that challenges your legs, obliques, and shoulders.
Modification: To make this more challenging: keep your upper leg elevated. To make this less challenging: hold a still plank and/or rest your legs on the ground and use the FR as part of your upper body rotation.
3. Russian twist
How: sit in a ‘V’ with your legs bent and your feet off the ground. Holding the foam roller with both hands, slowly rotate from side to side. Try to keep your legs still and only twist from the upper body.
Why: This is a great oblique and hip flexor exercise and will help prevent over-rotation when you tire at the end of a race.
Modification: If you can’t find the balancing sweet spot with your feet elevated, rest your heels on the ground.
4. 90 degree drops
How: Place the foam roller between your knees and squeeze gently. Lie on your back with your head elevated and supported by your hands. Keeping your knees at a 90 degree angle, slowly lower your feet toward the ground, then back up to parallel. Try to keep your back flat and pressed into the ground.
Why: This is a variation on a classic crunch, but when done slowly and with the FR it will really light up your abs!
Modification: After each repetition, take a short break with your feet on the ground.
5. Alternating knee pass
How: Start in the same position as the Russian Twist. Slowly pass the foam roller under each leg as you bend your knee and crunch your torso slightly toward the centre. Keep your other foot off the ground as you pass the roller under your knee.
Why: This is a great finisher exercise and will bring on a satisfying burn. Alternating legs mimics the movement of running. Make sure to keep this exercise slow, so that you can run fast!
Modification: Let your opposite foot rest on the ground as you pass the FR under your knee.