How To Use a Foam Roller To Warm Up and Cool Down

These moves will boost flexibility and recovery before and after your run.

Chances are you already know all about the benefits of foam rolling for your daily runs. But if you just use a foam roller to rehab injured muscles, you’re not getting the most out of it.

Foam rollers—which come in a variety of densities and sizes—can also be a valuable part of a healthy runner’s warmup and cooldown routine, says Michael Clark, Ph.D., a physical therapist and CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Foam rolling improves circulation, which gets the body ready for a workout and helps it recover afterward. And because rolling breaks down knots that limit range of motion, it preps your muscles for stretching. Staying loose and limber is especially important for those demanding long runs and speed workouts you’ve been doing to train for your spring races.

To get started, here’s a quick guide on how to use a foam roller to warm up before your run and cool down after.

Pro tip: Roll slowly and when you find a tender spot, focus in on it by rolling back and forth until you feel it soften or release.

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Rolling increases blood flow and releases muscle tightness that can interfere with proper running form.

1. Calves

How to do it: Start sitting on the floor with legs extended out in front of you. Place the roller under left calf. Rest right foot on the floor or cross right ankle over left for extra pressure. Use your hands to press hips off floor, then roll from the ankle to below the knee. Rotate left leg in, then out. Repeat on right calf.

2. Iliotibial Band

How to do it: Lie on left side with the foam roller near left hip. Cross right leg over left and rest right foot on the floor with the knee bent. Using your forearm, roll along your outer thigh from outer hip to just above the knee. Increase the pressure by stacking your legs. Repeat on right side.

3. Piriformis

How to do it: Start by sitting on the roller with left knee bent, foot on floor. Cross right ankle over left knee. Lean onto your left side and roll forward and back along your left outer hip and glute, using your left leg to control the pressure. Rotate hips left and right to find the trigger points and knots, then concentrate there for 60 seconds. Repeat on right side.


Rolling flushes out toxins to help recovery. (And with this foam roller workout, you can accelerate recovery.)

1. Hamstrings

How to do it: Sit on the floor and place the roller under your thighs. Use your hands to lift your hips then roll from the knees to the glutes. To increase the pressure, cross right leg over left and roll one leg at time, turning left leg in and out. Repeat on right leg.

2. Adductors

How to do it: Lie facedown on a mat on your forearms, shoulders over elbows with right leg extended out to the side, knee bent. Place the roller on your inner right thigh area and use your forearms and left leg to shift your weight back and forth to roll the inner right thigh. Roll from knee to hip then repeat on left leg.

3. Quadriceps

How to do it: Lie facedown on the mat on forearms with a roller placed under the front of your thighs. Use your forearms to shift back and forth to slowly roll up and down from the bottom of your hip to the top of your knee. For added pressure, lift left leg and roll one leg at a time. Repeat on left leg.

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