Mine is long and curved, and indispensable.

They come in all shapes and sizes, some are long but others are short and stocky. Some even have lumps and bumps. Mine is long and curved from wear and overuse, and my wife cringes when I take it out in the sitting room and she has to listen to moans and groans.  But my foam roller is indispensable in my efforts to avoid injury during marathon training. The effort and dedicated hours to training can all be lost so easily due to breakdown. The yearly incidence rates for injury in those training for marathons are reported to be as high as 90% (Fredericson & Misra, 2007). At some stage of their marathon training most runners pick up some sort of injury. So why is the injury rate so high?how-to-use-a-foam-roller-memeThe body adapts to the stress and strain of training by getting stronger. But the same stimulus that makes a runner stronger and more resilient can also cause breakdown. In this sense training is a controlled breakdown which allows the body to adapt and strengthen once it has recovered. The heart is the engine of the body. It responds to training and grows stronger at a much quicker rate than structural and muscular changes occur in the body (Houston et al., 1979; Thompson, 2007). The engine outpaces the chassis and this is a recognized cause of injuries in runners of all levels. The heart and lungs might be ready to run 17 miles in training, but the legs may not. When training exceeds the body’s ability to adapt, injury follows. Running hurts ……. and sometimes it hurts alot. We’ve all experienced the agonising point when the brain convinces the body that it is no longer possible to put one foot in front of the other (Tanaka et al., 2011). In order to resist the urge to give up and slow down when feeling miserable, the limits of suffering tolerance most be broken in training. Suffering is something you have to practice if you want to run longer, farther or faster because improvement lies at the blurred margins of pain and agony. So, unfortunately adaptation and injury are dance partners. There some runners who apparently never get injured and the reality is that they are genetically gifted, not training hard enough or are just incredibly lucky. Injury does not just cause pain and have a physical impact on runners; it causes anger and a sense of injustice. It is potentially detrimental to the mental wellbeing of a runner, they feel their fitness and hard work melt away slowly (Smith & Milliner, 1994; Smith, 1996).There is practically no drop in fitness as a result of missing up to five days of running. After that, conditioning drops more sharply. With two weeks of not running, fitness decreases by 6%(Coyle et al., 1986).  If the injury results in 9 weeks of missed training a 19% reduction in fitness results(Ready & Quinney, 1982). However after 11 weeks of no running there is 26% deterioration from peak running fitness (Nichols et al., 2000). The withdrawal symptoms from running due to injury, rather than physical tend to be more psychological in nature and include guilt, irritability, anxiety, tension, restlessness and depression. Many use running as a coping strategy, to regulate their emotional state and buffer our moods(Blumenthal et al., 1985).  Daily exercisers refused to participate in a study which offered to pay them to discontinue exercising for only one month. When the same study was conducted in a less addicted group of people (exercised 3 times per week),the participants were found to suffer from poor sleep, became sexually frustrated and complained of a sense of loneliness(Baekeland, 1970).

The two main injury risk factors during marathon training are increasing training load too quickly (going too far or too fast),  and continuing to train with a previous injury (Saragiotto et al., 2014). The most common injuries include achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral syndrome (knee pain) (Lopes et al., 2012). These tend to be ailments that develop over a period of time but athletes continue to run well beyond the initial signs of their presence. The key is to recognise and address small niggles early. Stop training, take a couple of days off, get the grumbles treated or allow them to settle before they become bigger issues and days turn into weeks. An extra rest day or two has never harmed any marathon training plan but injury has. Time off due to injury allows reflection; running is not the only way to relieve stress, keep fit or to enjoy exercise……..apparently.


Baekeland F. (1970). Exercise deprivation. Sleep and psychological reactions. Arch Gen Psychiatry 22, 365-369.

Blumenthal JA, Rose S & Chang JL. (1985). Anorexia nervosa and exercise. Implications from recent findings. Sports Med 2, 237-247.

Fredericson M & Misra AK. (2007). Epidemiology and aetiology of marathon running injuries. Sports Med 37, 437-439.

Houston ME, Bentzen H & Larsen H. (1979). Interrelationships between skeletal muscle adaptations and performance as studied by detraining and retraining. Acta Physiol Scand 105, 163-170.

Lopes AD, Hespanhol Junior LC, Yeung SS & Costa LO. (2012). What are the main running-related musculoskeletal injuries? A Systematic Review. Sports Med 42, 891-905.

Saragiotto BT, Yamato TP, Hespanhol Junior LC, Rainbow MJ, Davis IS & Lopes AD. (2014). What are the main risk factors for running-related injuries? Sports Med 44, 1153-1163.

Smith AM. (1996). Psychological impact of injuries in athletes. Sports Med 22, 391-405.

Smith AM & Milliner EK. (1994). Injured athletes and the risk of suicide. J Athl Train 29, 337-341.

Thompson PD. (2007). Cardiovascular adaptations to marathon running : the marathoner’s heart. Sports Med 37, 444-447.

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I qualified with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy from Trinity College Dublin in 2004. Since graduating I have worked in St. James Hospital Dublin and have worked in all the areas of speciality within the hospital including cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics, rheumatology, care of the elderly, neurology, burns and plastic surgery among others . I have also completed a post graduate certificate in acupuncture in UCD 2009. The Physiotherapy Department in SJH has strong links with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and I have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students on practice placements and also delivered lectures on the undergraduate academic programme in TCD. I have a keen interest in all sports and currently plays with Cill Dara RFC 1st team squad, and Milltown GAA. I have previously worked as Physiotherapist to Co. Carlow Senior GAA Team, Milltown GAA, Leinster Junior Rugby Team and Cill Dara RFC. I am an experienced runner and competed in the Dublin City Marathon in 2002. I continue to participate in running events and multisport disciplines such as Gaelforce West, Gaelforce North and the Motivate Challenge. I have a particular interest in strength and conditioning. I utilise this knowledge of resistance training in the treatment of his clients. I am committed to continuous learning and development in order to ensure the optimal level of care is offered to my clients, and with this in mind I am currently undertaking a certification in Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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