Sweet Relief for Your Sore Muscles

How a foam roller can soothe muscles before or after an indoor cycling workout

After a kickass indoor cycling workout, don’t be surprised if your leg muscles are tight and achy the next day. The phenomenon, called delayed onset muscle soreness, occurs 24 to 48 hours after an intense workout, and it’s believed to be caused by microscopic tears in muscle fibers and the connective tissues around the muscles. This may sound worrisome but it’s a normal response to a new form of exercise or something that can happen when you’ve cranked up the intensity of a familiar workout.

To the rescue: The simple but effective foam roller. A form of self-massage, using a foam roller releases muscle tightness by helping to elongate the tissue, breaking up knots or trigger points, and increasing circulation to the muscles. The net effect: A hastening of the recovery process. The key is to roll slowly and apply moderate pressure to a given muscle when your body is warm or after a workout. You may feel slight discomfort but it shouldn’t hurt. If you find a knot, gently rock the foam roller against the area in a back-and-forth or up-and-down motion until it releases, while breathing deeply.  

Here’s how to use a smooth foam roller to soothe commonly sore muscles before or after an indoor cycling workout:

Calves: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you and your calves resting on the foam roller. Place your palms on the floor behind you and lift your hips off the ground so you can slowly roll your calf muscles along the foam roller, from your Achilles to just below your knees.

When you find an area of serious soreness, pause and apply pressure to that spot before moving on. To hit every area of your calves, turn your legs inward then outward as you run the foam roller up and down.

Hamstrings: With your hips still off the floor, move the foam roller up to the top of the backs of your thighs, right below your butt.

Gently roll it up and down the length of your thighs towards your knees, concentrating on any areas of severe tightness. Again, turn your feet inward then outward as you roll, to hit every part of the hamstrings.   

Quads: Lie face down with your quadriceps muscles (in the front of your thighs) resting against the foam roller and your forearms on the floor (plank-style) to support you. Gently work the foam roller up toward the hips and down to just above the knees in a slow, controlled fashion several times. Then, repeat the movement with your feet turned inward, then do it with your feet turned outward to hit different angles within the quads.

Glutes: Sit on top of the foam roller with your left leg crossed over your right, your right knee bent and your right foot flat on the floor. Place your palms on the floor behind you for balance. Start with the foam roller at the top of your right glute muscle, near your lower back, and lean slightly towards your right leg, as you move the foam roller slightly down towards the top of your right thigh.

Continue rolling it up and down a few inches; shift your weight to the center then toward the other hip to get all the different areas of the glute. Switch sides.

IT (iliotibial) band: To release tension and soreness from this long band of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee, lie on your right side on the foam roller so that it’s just below your hip bone; cross your left leg in front of your right and place your left foot on the floor for balance. Place your palms on the floor in front of your torso for stability. Work the roller down to just above the right knee then back up again. Switch legs.

If you want a more concentrated form of massage to a particular area, consider using The Stick®. After a foam-rolling session, do a series of basic stretches for your lower body and more intense ones if you have time. Try to make this a regular part of your routine to keep your muscles loose, limber, and feeling good—on and off the bike.

Continue Reading