Tag Archives: health

The Grid Foam Roller Product Review

Next up is one of those miscellaneous training items that make you feel like a real deal athlete.( well, me at least) You know what I’m talking about, the kind of tool that before I became so running/ fitness minded I never imagined this kind of thing existed. What I am talking about is the foam roller. Long explanation short, this is a round piece of foam that exists for you to self-massage your muscles after you have worked out and are sore/ tight and looking for some relief and to assist in preventing injury. A quick internet search will return dozens of variations of these foam rollers, but the one that is consistently regarded as the top of the line, the “Cadillac of Rollers” if you will, the one that is called The Grid, made by Triggerpoint Therapy. I am happy to tell you that I have been provided one of The Grid rollers to use and review for you.

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Ok, so lets get this out of the way. Don’t mistake me here. Yes it helps, and yes, in the long run this reduces pain, but using this thing (any foam roller for that matter) hurts like a mother. It simulates a deep tissue massage, and as such uses your own body weight to supply the pressure. Dude, it hurts.

 I am attaching some pics of me using the roller, but I am also linking to a series of videos that I used myself to get acclimated and for reference, by our good friends at Runners World.

 http://www.runnersworld.com/stretching/foam-roller-video-series

 Ok, time to geek out for a minute, because I think that having the background will give the point of reference and really help you understand where I’m coming from and drive home how the roller actually helps.

Bear in mind I can give you a rough idea. I am by no means an expert or authority on the matter and as is usually the case, there is so much more that goes into this, but I have the high level overview as to how things work and that will succeed in demonstrating my point.

When you exercise, your muscles utilize Glucose and Glycogen, you can basically think of this as fuel. Its an efficient source of energy and what makes things go when you are being active. There is a downside to this, however (isn’t there always?) the problem is that once the fuel is used up it leaves behind a byproduct, and that byproduct is called lactic acid. This is bad stuff. You know it, but you probably just think of it as the pain or the “burn” in your muscles. In realistic terms, it’s why your legs are killing you the day after you really go for it while you are running or lift weights too aggressively. It’s a sign you used up what you’ve got and fully depleted the supplies. This is not a bad thing, that’s when the strengthening happens and endurance is built. But back to the lactic acid. So, you hit the treadmill or the hills in your neighborhood hard, and as a result your leg muscles (quads, calves, etc) are now A) chock full of this lactic acid, and subsequently B) killing you. The acid will dissipate naturally, which is why the burn goes away after a day or so, or if you’d rather take matters into your own hands, you can massage the muscles yourself which helps to clear it out much faster (or if you want to throw around fancy/ official/ technical terms: you would be administering Self Myofascial Massage. See? Told you it sounds fancy and official). You can either shell out the money to get a massage every time, which (unless you have a money tree or a trust fund or something this is not really a realistic option) or get yourself a foam roller. The foam roller is specifically designed to mimic a massage that can be used to work out that lactic acid, loosen up tight muscles, and generally keep things more flexible and less painful.

 An easy way to think of it is this: (I’m a food guy, so it always comes back to this for me) think of your muscles, (your calves for instance) as a piece of pizza dough. The way to use this roller effectively is to start at one end and slowly roll back and forth, working your way up your leg as if you were working the air out out of a piece of dough until you find a tight spot or knot (believe me, you WILL KNOW when you find one) and then you use the body weight and pressure to work out the knot. Then commence slowly working the back and forth as you work your way all the way up and then back down to where you started.

Ok, high level nerdy workout section complete. Sorry for the little background lesson there, but unless you have a little background as to why this tool is necessary, I feel like the message (and the value in the review) kind of gets lost.

 So onto the review of The Grid.

Foam rollers are, as the name would suggest, a round tube made of foam that looks and acts much like a rolling pin. Only in this instance “the dough” that you are using this rolling pin on is your ailing muscles.

It’s generally 12” or so in length and about 6” wide. They get longer, coming in lengths of up to 36” in order to be used for other things like rolling your back and such. My experience has been strictly on the “running related” muscles, so I will stick to those uses that I actually have some experience with now. I am talking about my Calves, Quads (thighs), IT Band (outside of your thighs), and Glutes (…the butt).

The Grid itself is a departure from the standard foam roller. Pretty much all the rollers on the market you will find are basically one giant smooth tube of foam. The Grid, however is a hollow Plastic tube with a good inch or so of foam all the way around the outside, with a grid like pattern. The idea behind the pattern is that it mimics more of a human hand. The large flat panels resembling the palms, the long skinny panels the fingers, and the small squares the fingertips or knuckles. This is a damn sturdy piece of equipment and the quality of materials/ care in assembly come through. It just feels solid and like it’s going to stay that way for years.  As for the usage, I have been using it quite a bit over the past month and I have had a very positive experience with it. I’m getting pretty good at using it/ balancing on it/ and getting the desired results. I can tell you that this is one of those things that is not as much “instant gratification” as it is a good habit to develop and will pay dividends over time. Important take away here is that although you will not feel better immediately after using it (it’s not magic, after all) I can report through my own experience that my recovery time/ pain has been substantially reduced. I feel better faster, and I am a huge fan of that.

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Another nice thing about this being hollow is that I can string it onto the shoulder strap of my gym bag if I want to. This is a convenient way to carry it (and also makes me look super legit and like I am a serious gym rat when I do it…Just saying.)

So I have been working with my Physical Therapist and getting them to help me in learning the correct form on this thing. I wanted to make sure I was using it right/ to its fullest potential.

 Bringing it back to the readers: who can use this/ who should look into this? I would say that this foam roller is more of a mid-level add on/ equipment addition. It’s not to say a beginner cannot benefit from this, but the circumstances for more frequent usage really start presenting themselves once you get comfortable running and your mileage starts increasing a little bit. Training for that first 5K? you probably will not need this just yet. However: training for that first Half Marathon? It may very well be time to get to rolling. This is one of those products that will not improve your running itself, exactly, but it definitely does improve your recovery, your mental outlook, and indirectly, the overall running experience.

 Like I said in the very beginning of this review, for something that provides a bunch of benefits, don’t lose sight of the sight that you are putting basically all (or at least most) of your body weight down on a concentrated spot, and then using that spot to work knots out of your muscles. It hurts. Hurts so good, but hurts nonetheless.

 I had been using a more entry level foam roller before I was provided The Grid, and between the pattern on the surface and the high quality/ stability of the roller itself, I have now been spoiled for the old one completely. Like I said, if you are progressing to the point in our running where you will start looking to up the mileage and frequency of your runs and want to help keep things loose and pain free, The Grid is worth checking out. It sells for about $40 everywhere I found it online. (it does bear mentioning that you can find foam rollers for as cheap as $16, but this is a matter where I believe you get what you pay for. One of the #1 complaints I’ve read when researching these rollers across the board was that with the less expensive rollers tend to lose their shape quickly with use and develop “indents or depressions” of compressed areas when you actually roll on it) I’d rather drop $40 once than $16 three separate times for an inferior product.

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 Overall, this is “one of the pieces of the puzzle” for me. This roller, combined with the consistent use of compression gear, additional cross training, stretching and strengthening exercises, and altering my running form are all working together to make me a better, stronger, more flexible runner. All that adds up to an injury free (or at least less injured) runner; and that is the name of the game. I am a fan of The Grid and encourage you to check it out, particularly if you are in a position like mine where some additional steps now to pay dividends later on are a point of focus for you.

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I am approaching this review from my standard viewpoint of what I believe the core interest of this blog really gets at: that is to say I am presenting my review by looking at this product from the perspective of a person who is relatively new to the running world, has some weight to lose and wants go about losing the weight by starting to incorporate a more active lifestyle and want to know how sift through the volumes of available gear/ equipment out there.

One of the great benefits to running a blog like this one is that it puts me in a position from time to time to receive various products to use and review for you. Oftentimes, these items are provided to me free of charge. This is the only type of compensation I have ever received, and my acceptance of these items in no way constitutes any obligation to provide an unwarranted positive review. My opinions on the products are unfiltered and 100% my own.

**This product was provided to me free of charge, but again, this does not influence my review or views on the product in any way**

Also please note that these are the personal opinions and experiences of one individual (me) on my personal blog, and intended to be taken as such. I personally, and The Running My Ass Off Blog do not accept any liability from the purchase or use of any products reviewed on this blog.

**Sorry, just have to cover my ass here. These are unbiased reviews, intended only to help. I’m not going to try and sell you anything, nor do I want you to take my opinions as the final word on any product. Let me help you figure out what you should check out, and then check the stuff out for yourself to see if you like it.**

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Back On Track…(A New Track, But Back Nonetheless)

It’s good to be back.

I just wanted to check in and give you a quick update on where I’m at and what the immedate future has in store for me.

I have been going to Physical Therapy to address my crappy knee and build up my legs/ core. It’s been going ok, but it’s not a quick process. I am adjusting to it, adapting it into my daily routine, and having patience and faith that as long as I keep it up and trust the process it’s going to put me where I need to be.

I’m not 100% yet, but all the swelling is gone and I can safely say that the vast majority of the pain is gone as well. I have been cleared to begin working out again…slowly.

There’s a  lot of work for me to do, but pretty much everything I’ve done to date has required a lot of work…so why stop now, right?

So it will be the new and improved workout routine now. Starting with short runs, and alternating with rides on the bike and pool workouts. I got my hands on a hand-me-down road bike which I am slightly obsessed with right now, and I am joining the local YMCA to get myself access to the pool as well. All the pieces are falling into place.

I go on vacation with the family next week, which will free up a lot of time. I am hoping to churn out a handful of reviews I have been meaning to write but running out of hours in the day to get to, start to piece together the panel of people that I want to assemble for the blog to field beginner’s questions, and get some form of workout in every day, alternating between rides on the bike and runs, followed by ice and rest/ playing with my daughter on the beach. (…and probably eating & drinking more than I should be, but hey: I’m on vacation, so it is what it is)

I am looking forward to ending the forced rest break that my crappy knee enforced. But while it did make me lose my mind with no real activity to speak of, I feel like it did me some good too (and not just in the obvious physical sense) This break also provided the “reset” I think I needed to shift my perspective a little bit.

Running will always be a love of mine, but I am really excited about the new multi-sport approach I will be taking.

The more I talk about/ read about/ plan for my Triathlon focus the more excited I get.

And to bring it back home, one of the reasons why I get so fired up about it is because by adding biking and swimming into the mix, it’s going to make me a more well rounded, stronger, more flexible, BETTER runner. So let’s fix this crappy running form of mine and start to build up the rest of my body that has been neglected with the laser focus on the weight loss and endurance running. I am excited and nervous. I am not under and false illusions here: I am fully aware that incorporating not one, but two new sports that are completely foreign to me is going to suck. It will hurt, I’m not going to be good at either (at first) and the temptation to go back to my comfort zone of solely running will always be there, but if I do this and do it right, it will pay off massively (in multiple ways). So as my good friend Lonnie says, “Suck It Up, Princess”…and just get after it.

As I get into it all I know I will have more to share, but for now it’s all about getting the work week wrapped up, getting packed and getting my ass down to the shore.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in and let you know that you can (hopefully) expect a flurry of product reviews from me next week, and give you a peek as to where I’m at both physically and mentally.

Much more to come, but for now:

Take it Easy

State Of The Union (State Of My Crappy Knee) / What My Summer Looks Like

It’s time for my next “traditional” blog post where I fill you in on what’s been going on with me, what I have on the horizon, what I’m currently training for, etc.

So, in the time since my last post, there’s been some stuff going on. I have made reference to my bum knee/ arthritic knee in the past, but things kind of came to a head 4 days into my RW Summer Run Streak and cut that short before it even really began. My knee swelled up and started causing some big time pain. This lasted for a few days which prompted me to utilize the follow-up with the orthopedic doctor that I had available in case things started to give me problems again.

So I headed back to the doc and after a new set of x-rays and a through exam, the situation is this: I have 3 separate things going on, but all are kind of related and overlapping. One I can’t really do anything about and the others I can. The non-fixable issue is called Chondromalacia (Con-dro-my-al-sha), which (in actual English) means I have a breakdown of the cartilage behind my kneecap. This is not a running specific thing and was not caused by it.  I have crappy genetics to thank for that one. It is what it is, and I can’t fix it. I had the option to get Cortizone shots, but I elected to pass on that for now. I want to see if I can’t fix this mess on my own before I resort to alternate means. And fixing this mess on my own leads me to the two things that I can actually affect some real change on. The second thing I have going on is Patellar Tendonitis. Again, translating that to words that non medical people can understand: The Patella is the muscle that is largely responsible for keeping your knee and kneecap straight in line when you are running. I have put extra stress on mine to the point where I have overworked it because of the 3rd thing I have going on. When I run, my kneecap tends to roll to the outside of my leg a bit. This is most likely caused by a combo of a few things. 1.) Strength: My legs, butt, and core are not strong enough.2.) Flexibility: I am not flexible enough, particularly in the hips. And 3.) my running form is not optimal for reducing undue impact on the already susceptible (crappy) knees. Yes, my knee still hurts like hell, but I am exceptionally hopeful and anxious to get back into things. I have been sitting for over a week and I miss the hell out of running already. Physical therapy starts next week and I am ready to get going and kick its ass. I have been saying that this summer is going to be dedicated to becoming a better runner, this really just gave me a good shove in that direction. I’m now looking at a few months of being dedicated to getting stronger, more flexible and most likely running no longer than a 5K.

As for my immediate future:
So it’s now time for me to get serious and take some measures to improve/ protect the knee and become the best/ smartest runner I can be. That means utilizing everything available to me to aid in the performance and support while running. I’m building up my legs and core. Looks like I’ll be rocking the compression sock pretty much all the time. I will be becoming a tape expert. And exploring any and all means available to make sure I’m in peak condition.
Not coincidentally, be on the lookout for product reviews in the immediate future for: KT Tape, Spun Performance Compression Gear, 110% Compression Sox & Ice system, and the Triggerpoint “The Grid” foam roller.

As for looking ahead:
If you know me, you know I am always working on the next plans and this is no exception. There were two other takeaways that I walked out of that doctor’s office with, and both have me EXTREMELY fired up and dying to get back out on the road.

First and Foremost, a marathon is not off the table. I repeat, a marathon is NOT off the table. I kind of assumed it was, but to my severe delight I will be able to chase down that final goal. Not tomorrow, mind you, but eventually. And with the caveat that I do it the right way. In the words of the doc (after we had been speaking frankly for the duration of the appointment), I will need to take my time, train up to the distances slowly, and be “strong as hell” to compensate for my knee issues, but it’s an attainable goal, and one that I will hit. Not this year, but I am saying that before I turn 40, I will be a marathoner. I’m 36 now. 4 years to get it, and I am going to do it. Suck on that, crappy knee.

And secondly, he made the recommendation that I do not give up running, however he advised that I find other means of being active to replace a portion of  (and compliment) the running. Means that are not body weight bearing, so that I am not putting myself in a situation where’s it’s all pounding, all the time on my knees. The two suggestions he threw out there specifically were swimming and biking. Both of these are great ways to get a workout in while sparing my knees the wear and tear that running brings with it. These two things are also, coincidentally, the other 2 legs that make up a Triathlon. And yes, I am 100% on board and will be aggressively be chasing this new goal down. I am very realistically looking at a Sprint Triathlon for Spring 2014 and an Olympic Triathlon for Fall 2014.

Big Andy the Triathele….I like the sound of that.  Sounds pretty badass I think.

Actually, my 2014 calendar seems to be pretty well full already.

There are a few races that I want to continue, and then when you add in the others that I want to do, I am looking at a fantastic year. Phillies 5K, UCP 5K, Broad Street, Sprint Tri, Olympic Tri, and the Runner’s World Half and Festival “Hat Trick” are looking to fill out 2014. (The Hat Trick is going to be awesome, by the way. 2 days, 3 races, 5K,10K,& a Half. 22.4 Miles in the span of 48 hours. I’m really looking forward to pushing myself and seeing just how much I can accomplish) I am getting some pressure to add in the Philly Marathon, but we’ll see on that one. (So no promises Rock, but if I can do it, you know I’ll be there with you)

That’s me and what I am looking at in a nutshell for the summer. It’s not sexy, and I have no races to speak of all summer. I do still have the Runner’s World “Five and Dime” in October where I will be running back to back 5K and 10K races, but nothing until then except for PT, and working my way into being bigger, faster, stronger.

So that’s the state of affairs on my world right now. Crappy knee is still dragging me down but I’m dealing with it, and as long as I take my time, do it right, and don’t do anything stupid to do more damage the time invested now will pay dividends far into the future. -Granted, I’m losing my mind right now with being severely limited and having a forced rest period…but staying smart and not going out too soon. The last thing I need is to get antsy, push too hard too fast and end up hurting myself. I want to get strong enough that I can run some on my vacation down on the Jersey Shore. I did it last year and nothing beats running by the ocean. But again, PT starts next week and I’ll know more after that initial appointment.

For now I’ll be playing the hand that I’m dealt. I won’t be logging insane amounts of miles, but then again I never expected to anyway. Looking forward to (yet again) pushing into the unknown and trying new things… and kick some ass along the way.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, take it easy.

Andy