Fuel & Foam Rollers

The last time I did a fitness check-in I was complaining about my heavy legs and lagging energy. As I work on trying to improve my 10k time I’ve been employing different types of runs to help me with my endurance, strength, and speed. These workouts have been extremely challenging and also encouraging as each week–even when things are tough, I see my fitness improve at least a little bit (had my “easiest” 6X mile repeat workout yet on Sunday!)

As I quickly grew tired of my own grumbling, about 10 days ago I decided to step up my game and try to do something about my stiff limbs and lackluster stamina. My sudden but thorough dedication has produced some rather rapid and profound results, so it seems only right to share in case anyone else out there needs a boost. None of these things are rocket science or even really new. Ironically, my first two pointers are things I’ve done before (and shared about some) but have been lazy about the past few months. Getting back and deepening my commitment to them as daily practices has had such a huge impact, I hope I’ll never stray again.

TMT Baby…Or Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, if you will…

I’ve written about the magic  of magnesium before and how much it has helped loosen up my tight calves. Before I started marathon training last year I couldn’t run more than a mile or two without getting charlie horses in the back of my legs. I’d stretch and stretch but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to start building major mileage without cramping up. Being desperate, I finally took the advice from my mom to try magnesium oil. I think I was hesitant before because I had been taking a magnesium supplement for a really long time. While it had always been an effective tool for keeping me regular (I take it every night before I go to bed and wake up at almost the exact same time every morning to do my business), it had never seemed to have any effect on any other part of my body. When I was finally open and willing to listen, I heard my mom explain that absorbing magnesium (an essential mineral that we are almost all deficient in) through the skin was far more effective than taking it orally since it meant it could bypass the road block of our digestive systems.

The first time I rubbed the oil in my calves I thought it was some sort of witch’s brew; it worked so fast it freaked me out a little. Since then I’ve been using it on the same area on a daily basis and I’ve had little to no cramping despite extensive mileage and excessive hill work.

For some reason it was only about a week ago when I tweaked my back at the gym that I thought about using it in other places. All the strength training and speedwork I’ve been doing has my quads and hamstrings feeling like concrete–immobile and terribly heavy. Now, twice a day–once after my workout in the morning and once before I go to bed, I’m massaging the magnesium oil into every part of my legs, my glutes, and my back. Most nights, my legs are so tight and restless that I’m tempted to jump out of bed and hop on the foam roller. Instead now I’m falling asleep faster and resting more soundly since I’m not being woken up by my antsy or cramping legs. Speaking of the foam roller…

F.R.I.L…Foam Rolling is Life…

When I learned that our bodies are encased in this web of fascia that constantly absorb trauma and stress and constrict to protect (and also inhibit) our movement, injuries I had had began to make a lot more sense. I’m not going to get into the science or even the how-to of foam rolling, as I think most people (runners especially) are familiar. If you are not, google both ‘foam rolling’ and ‘myofascial release’ and you will find a wealth of useful information.

Up until a couple weeks ago, my foam rolling game was pretty much dying. My legs felt like shit but every time I went to roll it didn’t seem like much was happening. So I did it less and less. Finally, one night when my quads were screaming, I hopped on the roller while my hubs and I sat and watched playoff basketball. After a lot of fussing around, I finally realized that I was only getting the pressure I needed at the very end of the roller. Immediately I grabbed my iPad and googled ‘do foam rollers wear out?’ Upon finding almost immediately that the answer was yes, I pondered how it could have taken me so long to realize how lumpy and ineffective my favorite painful tool had gotten. A minute or so later I next-day primed a new one to our door. Since receiving it I’ve welcomed back that hurts so good feeling into my life twice a day–no excuses. It’s paid off. Along with the magnesium oil, I feel like I’ve got a new set of legs. I’m feeling strong, as always, but now also light and loose and a whole lot more mobile. I feel like I’ve got some spring in my legs again which is a relief since I’ve been working on picking up some speed.

Getting faster or going further is pretty much impossible if your energy is dwindling…

Finding my Fuel… 

I mentioned previously  that running on empty wasn’t cutting it anymore. I workout first thing in the morning and while I used to make it through on last night’s meal and my AM cocktail of ACV, lemon, and water, it’s not enough for what I’m trying to do now. I don’t care for carb-loading and eating a lot of grains as my body does not respond well to it, so I had to figure out something else. During marathon training before long runs I would have a protein shake in the morning (0 carbs) and then rely on gels or blocks once I got past a certain number of miles. I think this worked ok, but I always felt like there was room for improvement. I’ve been playing around with different things the past couple weeks and I think I’ve finally come up with a smoothie that I’m really happy with:

  • frozen org strawberries
  • frozen org kale
  • frozen org blueberries
  • 1/2 or whole banana
  • several chunks fresh pineapple
  • Vega one protein powder
  • tbsp Bulletproof MCT Oil
  • Unsweetened almond milk

The fruit provides me with all the sugar/carbohydrate I need for fuel–but with the protein in the vega powder and the fat in the MCT oil, I feel like I’m upgrading to a premium source of energy that lasts for hours. I can’t remember the last time I was finishing runs and still feeling like I had so much left in the tank. It’s a good feeling–and I think it’s been a positive for me not only physically, but also mentally. For so long I always tried to run on empty because I figured I’d burn the most fat that way. I was fine if I finished a workout dragging as long as I had extinguished a certain number of calories. It feels good now to provide my body with what it needs to perform the way I want it to. We’re working together now rather than me just forcing it into submission. I want to focus more on what my body is capable of doing, rather than what it is capable of looking like. I think eating for gains rather than losses is going to help set me on that track.

Bonus tip: I started adding the pineapple after my mom suggested it for it’s powerful enzyme, bromelain. I had complained to her about having the right amount of time to digest the smoothie before I started my workout–I wanted to be satisfied but not too full. Right away she suggested the pineapple as the bromelain would aid in digestion and also reduce inflammation and promote blood flow. I swear this one was kind of like the magnesium oil–it worked so quickly I almost couldn’t believe it. Instead of sitting in my stomach, the smoothie starts to work it’s way into my system quickly and is ready to be used as my fuel as soon as I get to the gym. What can I say, the lady knows her shit! (She’s a holistic nutritionist. I am trying to get her to start her own blog cause she really has so much to offer!)


Got any tips you are currently using that are saving your legs or your mind lately? I’d love to hear them!

What do you eat/drink before your workout or run? 

Do you find you are more focused on performance in your workouts, or on the results of them (losing weight, toning up, etc)? Do you think this focus matters?











header: alison-marras

40 thoughts on “Fuel & Foam Rollers

  1. Saving our mind? Lol . excercise!!! is definitely the go for mind and body no matter what it is. I think focus is relative to what stage of life you are at. At one time everything I ate drank and did was to help with performance. Now I find I just want to feel good. I want a good range of motion, strength, and yes to see progression in my workouts, but not necessarily for competitive reasons any more. Nice and I looooovvvvveee the foam roller! My workouts do not feel complete until I am done. A pro baseball player I know has one that vibrates. lol.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. He seems to like it, but I am not sure. Personally, I just love relaxing at the end of my workout with the regular one. It feels complete and my body feels stretched out. ( I use it after my stretching). Hahaha baseball, you ask? For many years it was Boston. With family in New England, there are not other options. A few years ago I hoped on board with the Diamondbacks, since we live here. We had season tickets for 3 years until I decided we must be the reason they were horrible. Sooo…Check their record. lol. I must have been right. They are doing better. Guess I will stick with them but keeping it kinda quiet, so they aren’t jinxed. . lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m gonna try both these things! I’ve been trying to take fish oil tablets three times a day, but failing miserably 😂 I just keep forgetting! I’ve been looking for a new morning smoothie recipe so I’m gonna give yours a go and the oil sounds a good idea too, I’m just tight all the time from work and training! Your mum defo needs to start blogging, I need all the help I can get with food, my body just seems hate everything right now 😂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Cat – sorry I’ve been a but absent around these parts…busy couple of weeks and the catchup mountain was a bit too large for me to get to all the posts I wanted to!

    My legs are being saved by the fact I have some sort of ongoing calf/achilles niggle that has stopped me from running – as you can imagine that’s done wonders for my mind, especially with an 80km race in mid-August…

    Food and drink is very much an “it depends” for me. For anything up to a half marathon I don’t really worry very much but I do find a simple bowl of oats sets me up nicely. I try to eat healthily and heartily in the week leading up to a long race. I think it’s something I need to work on though as all my shorter distance times suggest I should smash a 3:30 marathon and I’m nowhere near it.

    I don’t know what a foam roller is let alone how to use one but I’ll try to educate myself 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So good to hear from you Nik, missed you! Sorry to hear about your calf/achilles. Obviously I don’t know precisely what you are dealing with there but you should try the magnesium oil! It’s definitely worked some wonders for my legs.
      Also, I am shocked that you don’t own a foam roller with as active as you are–using one is super painful but I bet it would help with a lot of the niggles!

      That’s interesting what you say about what your shorter times are supposed to mean for your longer distance times–that’s something I’ve been looking at a bit lately just cause I was curious about it. then i found that there was a bit too much “shoulding” in that whole discussion for me. I’ll work hard and try to tweak things, but I’m ultimately just going to do my best right? I’m human, not a formula! Anyway, just wanted to say i know the feeling of thinking i “should” be able to make that pace!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh that smoothie sounds good! And well done for getting these things sorted and thank you for sharing them.

    I love my foam roller but need to get back on my ITB with it. At the moment, I’m mainly rolling my right glute and ham as they have got all tight for no reason except possibly I’ve worked on the left ones a lot – argh!

    I will take note of the pineapple trick. Can it be juice or does it have to be chunks or rings? I really have to have a three-hour gap between eating and running, and anything that helps everything pass through would be fab.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am the same Liz–I tend to work one side more than the other. I am constantly recognizing my imbalances in yoga especially! It’s really interesting to see what I’d prefer to avoid–and what that is really about!
      I think pineapple juice has some bromelain as well–but the core and then the fruit is what has the most. I’ve taken to having a few chunks after every meal and it really does do something–it’s like I’m getting the nutrients from the food I am eating more efficiently or something, it really feels sort of machine like–and i like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Julie

    Hi Cat. I am eating pretty low carb and I do think it impacts my energy for running so very interested in that smoothie. I am not going back to grains either! When do you take that smoothie – in the morning before a long run?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Julie! Glad to hear from another grainfree/ish sister ;). And yes, I take the smoothie before my workouts in the morning, whether it’s a long run or before I go to the gym where I do strength training for about 45 minutes, and then some sort of run workout on the treadmill (tempo or interval run usually). Without the smoothie, by the time I got through the strength training i was pooped. Now with it, I can really power through. I will say though, I think the protein and the fat in it are key for me–if it was just the fruit or even less protein (sometimes people count almond milk as protein but there is really not much in there), I don’t think it would be as effective. Also, if you like pineapple, I would really put a vote in for that as well–the digestive enzyme really makes a difference! Without it I can actually sometimes feel TOO full to run right away after the smoothie, but the pineapple gets me digesting quickly–but the fat and the protein keep the energy going!
      Hope you find something that works for you–energy for our workouts is so important!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 1 – Never tried magnesium but I’d be willing to give it a go.

    2 – “Hurts so good” was definitely my massage last night. I always have my shoulders/upper back worked (being a desk jockey takes its toll for sure) but I mentioned to her about my glutes being tight even with foam rolling and using a tennis ball. She worked those as well and cautioned to take it easy today as I’d be sore. I usually have some mild soreness after a massage but today I definitely feel more beat up. I wanted to workout today since I skipped yesterday but I think I’ll stick to a mobility workout to be safe. I hadn’t gone for one since early March due to track season and it felt way overdue. I’m looking to get back into my more consistent running habit of 3x a week though so figured that was a good way to get some kinks out to get started!

    3 – Let us know if/when your mom decides to start blogging… she sounds very knowledgeable! Maybe if she doesn’t want her own blog she could do “guest articles” for you to post?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely try the mag oil girl–it’s kind of amazing!
      I am so jealous of your massage–I really want/need one right now. Trying to pinch pennies a bit though since i’m off work for a bit and we are traveling soon! Sounds like she really worked on you well–you’re right, perfect for you starting to get back into your running routine!

      Also thanks for the encouragement for my mama <3. I think she is less interesting in starting a blog and more interested in creating a site for her clients (and new clients) hoping this pushes her along a bit :).


  7. Erratic Movement

    I think I’m more focused on the results than the performance of individual sessions. Or rather the consistency in getting out there and getting it done. So if I need to go out and do a long run, its not necessarily the pace I run at during or the prospect of “this is going to help me get faster”. I try and disconnect from that and focus on getting it down week in, week out. That prevents me from getting too caught up in “have to blitz this session” or “if I’m not running at X pace in three months was this a waste?” – I suspect I might benefit from putting a bit more emphasis on these things in training, so long as I can keep in balance without getting bogged down on the details.

    For food/fuel tips, its not much of a tip honestly (and I haven’t even looked in to what benefits if any it can provide) but I’ve discovered that kiwi fruit is pretty good! I’ve only ever had kiwi-flavoured foods or drink in the past, had the fruit for the first time this morning and it was very refreshing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That makes sense Paul. I think part of my setting goals for each workout actually comes from my focus on staying in the day/moment. So it’s not that I’ve “failed” a workout or think that it’s ever been a waste, it just helps me to break everything up into smaller steps. Then the larger goal doesn’t feel so big to me.
      I definitely understand though not wanting to get bogged down in the details!

      That’s so crazy you had kiwi for the first time–it’s delicious right? It’s funny cause I am not sure I’ve ever had kiwi “flavored” anything, but I have eaten the fruit plenty ;).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Erratic Movement

        Yeah, I’ve been missing out for sure 😀 It was fairly cheap, ripens easily, is easy to eat and from what I understand, its one of the better fruits to buy if you can’t get it organic (which I haven’t seen about).

        Liked by 2 people

  8. M

    OK so this makes me so happy to have an explanation (excuse?) for my love of pineapple and my insatiable need for it sometimes! My body must be needing the bromelain. Who knew?!

    I’m also on the magnesium train with you and find that I feel better when I take it. I typically do the chewable supplements but I’m going to look at some of the oil that you mention. Especially for the one spot on my leg that tends to cramp following long runs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is so awesome that your body tells you to eat the pineapple–that’s amazing, and also makes so much sense! It literally helps you digest everything you eat. It makes sense that at a lot of asian restaurants they serve a bit of pineapple with or after the meal.
      Definitely look at the oil lady–TOTALLY different thing than taking the supplement orally. I wouldn’t even say they do similar things! Try it on that spot and all over your legs–it’s really made a huge difference for me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. M

        Going to order some oil today! My poor legs need something/anything after so many ridiculous runs lately so I’m willing to give it a shot! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Cat! Am starting a research low impact exercise program and will use the smoothie for energy which leaves me in the morning. Am allergic to strawberries and pineapple. Would apples be okey? Will ask your mom about another fruit with bromelain. Thanks for the inspiration! Namaste!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Awesome Pat! Yeah the smoothie is great cause it’s really hard to just work off whatever you ate the night before (at least for me, everyone is different though!). I am not sure there is another fruit with bromelain but you can take it as a supplement. It is very common and does work well for it’s digestive qualities. Good luck with your new regimen, hope you enjoy! x


  10. alyssavbornhorst

    I’ve been trying to do better with foam rolling lately. I’m really bad about quitting mobility and foam rolling once I start to feel better. Also, magnesium for life. I’ve never tried magnesium oil before, so I may have to try it out. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alyssa I relate to this 100%. Once my legs start feeling loose and have that bounce back I’m like “alright, who needs that anymore!?” lol. Ugh, and then a few days/weeks later I am right back where I started! Trying to be better and remain consistent–trying to think of it as a part of the workout lately rather than something that’s optional after!
      And def give the magnesium oil a try–I really swear by it! Thanks for reading and chiming in, so happy to have you!


    1. Thanks for the tip Donna, I will try to remember that! I have been doing a better job of stretching lately–because I do yoga I think sometimes my stretching game is a little weak–it’s like I put it off till I get to class!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I got a bumpy roller, it works better. My friend Moe says its because there is space for expansion and movement of the rolled tissue as opposed to compression only. Moe also swears by topical Mg. Like you, I’m prone to take it by mouth, and less inclined to rub it on. You’ve inspired me again, Cat! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a bumpy roller too–I have both ;).
      I would definitely try the topical Steph–especially with all the different physical activity you are doing. It’s such a different thing than taking it orally–I don’t think it compares at all!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. timbennettmovement

    Recovery is sometimes the hardest part, and something that I definitely neglect.
    Thanks for the post, it’s given me some much needed motivation to get back on the foam roller!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely agree Tim–once you get the workout in, it’s hard to ALSO make the effort for recovery–and it’s definitely effort–effort and time! I’m trying to get disciplined and start thinking of them as part of the workout so it doesn’t feel like an option to miss them. I know how much better the next workout is if I’ve recovered correctly!
      Hope you get back on that foam roller–hurts so good ;).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think my legs would be lead without it, seriously!
      PS-was just checking out your blog, and love that you are so into the hockey playoffs. I’m not into hockey but my hubs and i are basketball OBSESSED and so I definitely relate (and i always think it’s kind of fun that hockey and hoops playoffs are always at the same time, so i at least pay attention to who is playing. the Vegas thing is pretty cool i think!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s