Pick your poison – torture tools

Runners hit the proverbial wall. We fall and scrape knees, palms and hips on the asphalt, trail, concrete and ice. These are the obvious pains.

The not so obvious ones? We overtrain and under cross-train. We don’t always listen to our bodies and rest when they need it. We don’t keep up with our strength and core exercises. Sometimes we do it all and still get niggles which can lead to injury.

We have tight IT bands and our <insert body part here> hurt. We persevere because we’re runners and that’s what we do. We want to run.

Most of us have our collections of torture devices to allow us to continue to run.

They help break down trigger points or knots, relax muscles, and allow more blood to flow into those tired, sore muscles. These torture devices allow us to continue on with training through the tight and sore mucles.

Here’s what Kelly and I have at home:


Foam roller X 3 – a softer one, which was the first one we bought; a medium one; and a hard one
Check out this infographic on how to foam roll like a pro or watch these Runner’s World videos.

I use a foam roller most frequently out of all the tools. While training for Ironman Canada in 2012 I was coming off the worst of a knee injury. I could barely use our soft roller on my IT bands without wincing. Now I use our hardest one and it feels ok.

I most often use a foam roller for my IT bands and quads.

The Stick
Visit The Stick website for info on suggested use.

I like that it is small enough to easily take with on a trip. At home, I like using it on my hamstrings and calves the best.

Trigger Wheel – made by The Stick

Photo from Amazon...click photo

Photo from Amazon…click photo

This is great for small or difficult places that traditional devices won’t reach. Personally, I like to use it when it’s just not appropriate or feasible to pull out a foam roller and start rolling like at work or on a road trip. I actually used to keep it in my purse to pull out whenever I needed! And it works wonder on the neck and arms.

Trigger point ball, tennis ball, baseball, etc.
Balls are my saving grace when my piriformis or hips are tight. They can get into those places like nothing else! I also use them to roll out the bottom of my feet.

These are just a few inexpensive ways to help out sore muscles with some of the same benefits as deep tissue massage. We have them scattered around the house. If I see them, I’m more likely to use them.

Remember that if it’s a new pain or something that hurts more than just a niggle, you should get it checked out by a professional to ensure you don’t do more damage.

What’s your favourite torture device? What’s the strangest place you’ve used them?

I used a foam roller in the middle of Cannon Beach in Oregon!


53 responses to “Pick your poison – torture tools

  1. I agree about balls for the piriformis. I have found lacrosse balls are the best (but really the worst). I don’t think I have any good stories about using them in weird places in public, though this is a fantastic question!

  2. ari @ whatarisaid

    I lost my ball, I got one in a StrideBox and I think my cat stole it. Good advice on how to use each one, thanks!

  3. I have foam rollers that I don’t use nearly as often as I should but I would love to get one of the balls!!!

  4. We have three different foam rollers in our house too! I also have the stick and I keep a baseball in my car. I’ll sit on it and dig into my piriformis while driving!

  5. Oh I love this! You guys have quite the collection! I only have the stick, though I’ve heard such good things about foam rolling I really may give it a try, if my knees ever let me need it!

  6. I use a Trigger Point roller. It hurts so good. I also use a golf ball for the bottom of my feet.
    Once after a half marathon in New Orleans, my IT band felt tight and I didn’t have a roller with me, so I grabbed an unopened gatorade bottle and rolled using that!

  7. Thanks Abby for writing about The Stick – we greatly appreciate it at http://www.TheStick.com where we now offer Free Shipping to everyone and we carry all of the products – piratebobcat should use The FootWheel for his feet … beats any other product to date that I have seen for the foot.

    Keep up the great work Abby

  8. Confession: I don’t own any device except for a tennis ball… must get a foam roller soon, I just need to stop neglecting stuff like that. Really need to start taking sore and tight muscles more seriously, otherwise my body will be paying for it a few years down the road! Foam roller is going on the Christmas list. Thanks for this awesome post!

  9. I don’t have a “stick,” but I do have a little portable home ultrasound machine that I used to use quite regularly on my IT band or my knee. Haven’t used it in two years though, which is also about as long as it’s been since I’ve used my foam roller or my trigger wheel. I probably should break them out more often, but my philosophy as of late has been if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. I also stopped stretching, and while I can’t make a direct correlation, I’ve essentially been injury free since.

    • Funny you haven’t used any of them in a couple years! I’ve actually read about a few people who were injured often and then stopped stretching and have been good ever since. I think one of the people I read that about was professional athlete Hillary Biscay.

  10. I love using the tennis ball. It’s small and easy while really get in there!

  11. You may be interested to check out Soma System self-bodywork tools and educational programs:


  12. I live by my foam roller–it hurts so good!

  13. We have stick and a really bad foam roller (soft and big) and I barely use either of them… I’m not disciplined at that stuff! I guess I’ve never felt like it really helps me (probably because I don’t use them) so I don’t have a major desire to use them! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?! Hah

  14. We have a rumble role at work and I LOVE it!

  15. oh my gosh, i’m uncomfortable just looking at those. ouch they hurt so good, right? the stick.. that’s the worst for me

  16. Great advice! I think over training is one of the most common problems in endurance sports. I have seen it time and time again…someone who kicks my butt every training run, but who I ultimately beat on race day. They went to hard for too long and it hurt them in the long run. It is problematic. You have to walk that fine line during your training cycle to get enough in, but not overdo it!

  17. Foam roller and stick are my pals! I need to get better at using them on a regular basis though, and not just when I am hurting.

  18. I have been selling The Stick for over 17 years now … and the mistake most people make, is that they dig in too deep with The Stick. When using The Stick, roll to the point of mild discomfort ( it hurts so good), not more. Then repeat using the Stick at least 3 or 4 times, that day, for 30 seconds to about a minute … lightly but frequently. The increased circulation will have you recover much, much faster … plus: The Stick is a great diagnostic ( not only therapeutic) tool. Why? For when your muscles are well recovered, they won’t hurt a bit when you roll them out, nor feel uncomfortable in any way … most of us don’t know when/ where we are tight, and by using The Stick you will find out right away …

    If you ever doubt the benefits of The Stick, you just roll out on leg and not the other leg, then walk around, and you will be surprised how much better the leg feels that you rolled out with The Stick … just try it … particularly after a run.

    I personally use The Stick pre and post running and I feel so much better going into a run, as loose from the first step as if I had already run about 15 min … and when I use it after my run, I am less sore and recover much faster.

    Just use The Stick and make it part of your daily routine, you will be very happy that you did!
    If you have any other questions, our website will solve a lot, so I hope: http://www.TheStick.com

    Best wishes

    Patrick Materna

  19. We have a stick, and it’s funny because my little one will pretend to use it. I need to teach her how to roll it on my sore muscles instead! I’ll have to check out the trigger wheel, and I really need to get a foam roller.

  20. I only have one massage roller. Its from Addaday and kinda scary looking. I have even “trained” my (almost) 2 yr old son to grab the roller and roll it over my calves. He just needs to work on the pressure and I have my own little personal trainer 🙂

  21. Love your blog and love these recommendations!

  22. I use a foam roller every day!! Since I got a tiger tail I’ve started using that a lot too!! The tiger tail is super great to travel with too!
    Weirdest place? Parking lots during relays? 🙂

  23. I used a foam roller for the first time last week and OMG did it hurt!! My quads were so sore but I figured it would only help if I tried it. Now I am hoping for my own roller for Christmas. 🙂

  24. Pingback: Stretching – Good for the Body, Great for the Mind | Day With KT

  25. I love my foam rollers! The Grid is my favorite because it’s an in between level a massage… not too soft, not too hard.

  26. Great post! I foam roll about once a week and always feel better after – and wonder why I don’t do it more often! We also have a lacrosse ball to roll out the bottoms of our feet and also to get more localized rolling on the legs and back. And, the stick! Love that thing 🙂

  27. Stephanie@nowiun.com

    I’m just NOT GOOD about using my foam roller. It sits in my bedroom and once in awhile I look at it ~ but don’t use it. It seems like such a waste.
    My mom has always had a tennis ball (in a sock so she can move it around and not drop it) by her chair in the family room. She gets knots in her back and loves to roll those out regularly.

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