by Holly Martin
Running is an inherently self-abusive sport. We ask so much of our feet and legs, and for the most part, they rise to the challenge and take us through miles and miles, on flat and hills, roads and trails. It makes sense, then, that we should focus on strengthening our bodies and helping them to recover more easily through stretching and myofascial release. One of those things that all runners need to do, though, is massage rolling with a reliable foam roller.
I hate foam rolling.
I mean, I really hate it.
It’s painful. It’s annoying. It doesn’t “hurt so good” like everyone promises. It just hurts.
I’ve tried it all. I tried a soft foam roller and the hard one with a PVC pipe in the middle. I’ve tried the ones with special bumps and grooves to “massage” your legs and IT band. I’ve rolled on lacrosse balls, and I’ve tried at least four versions of sticks that promise to make rolling easier and less painful.
Guess what? It’s not easier. It’s not less painful. And I still make just as many excuses as before to not roll my legs out.
Then one day, a light shone down onto a magical tool of wonder and mystery. The R8 Massage Roller entered my life.
If you’ve been to Salt Lake Running Company in the last few months, chances are you’ve seen the R8, and you may have seen some of the employees using it and demonstrating it for customers. At first, the R8 looks kind of strange — like inline skate wheels on a crazy plastic contraption. That’s not too far from the truth, actually. The design uses polyurethane wheels on a hard plastic frame that kind of reminds me of crocodile jaws — pull the jaws apart, clamp the teeth, I mean, wheels, on your leg, and roll away. What is different about the R8, compared to the plethora of recovery tools on the market, is that it really works, and it works well.
The R8, due to the springs and wheels, is able to self-adjust around your muscles, using that force to “flush out legs, break up muscle adhesions, and stimulate blood flow.” You can adjust the pressure if it’s a bit too much simply by pulling the arms further apart, or use it to its full capacity to get a deep massage. It can easily hit all of the major muscle groups in your legs, and can even target the smaller, deeper muscles (hello, piriformis!). No more rolling around on your foam roller on a dirty floor contorted like a circus performer while your dog licks your face!
The R8 works incredibly well on your calves and arms as well, but where I think the R8 excels is its ability to work deep into my hamstrings, which are a major trouble spot for me. In the past I’ve sat on lacrosse balls for what felt like hours, trying to massage those knots out. The R8 gently rolls my hamstrings to the point where they’ve almost loosened up completely, and since I’ve been using it after every run, I haven’t had an issue.
The R8 is also small and light enough (around 2.5 pounds) that it’s not a big pain to travel with, and so easy to use that even I, the queen of I-just-ran-I-deserve-to-sit-down-and-do-nothing-now, don’t mind taking a few minutes after a run to do a quick roll. I ran the Portland Marathon recently and my husband graciously brought the R8 to the finish, and I swear that using the R8 after the race helped me recover faster than I ever have after a marathon.
At $119, the R8 is a bit more expensive than most recovery tools, but trust me when I say that it’s worth every penny. You know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Spend a little extra on a tool that you’ll actually use (instead of that foam roller gathering dust in the corner) and you will reap the benefits of myofascial release, helping you to keep running stronger and longer.
I highly recommend that you come in and give the R8 a try. Just ask any Salt Lake Running Company employee to give you a quick demo and walk you through the process. If you’re a frustrated, unhappy foam roller or massage stick user, the R8 may be the answer to your problems.