At no point in my life did I ever expect to be able to say I ran more than just a sprint. As a kid, short distances were my thing but I would sometimes enjoy the challenge of the 400, preferably as a member of the relay team. Even during that period of time when I was physically fit, I couldn’t complete a longer distance without stopping.

I honestly don’t even recall being able to run a mile.

Yet, here I am, looking forward to running with DH at least a few times a week. It’s a challenge but I’m working on it a little at a time. Today, I ran for over 2 miles before I needed to walk out the cramp in my side.

Two miles of our 4+ mile run today… on a route that has become my new favorite. The rolling hills push me but the flatland between is enough for me to catch my breath… more or less. We’ve enjoyed our running outings so much that hubby encouraged me to get a new pair of lightweight Saucony shoes and reserve my Asics for the Monday/Wednesday cross-training class I take.

Since I’ve never had a knack for running long distances, each step beyond my personal best is a win. And let me tell you, I’m savoring every step and setting new goals every time. Despite the new shoes and the gradual increase in distance, I’m still fighting aches and pains here and there – as is DH. He read that stretching, something we aren’t consistent with, is key to warding off injuries and foam rollers are a great option.

I contacted Empower Fitness and inquired about their R&R Massage & Stretching product. It’s a cushioned foam roller and comes with a stretching strap, therapy ball and program guide.

This one is actually hollow in the middle (which is great for storing the ball, strap and instructions) whereas others I have looked at are solid foam. Those remind me of flimsy water noodles although I’ve never tried any of them until now.

Basically, the theory behind these rollers is that you give your muscles a deep tissue massage. Using the instructions and tools included, you use your body weight and small movements to stretch. The instructions with the kit provide photos and descriptions for stretching all of the following:

  • thigh and hip flexors
  • shins
  • calves
  • quads
  • hamstrings
  • spinal muscles
  • forearms
  • lats
  • neck
  • back
  • shoulders
  • hands
  • feet

I stretched the major leg muscles today and found the general process to be very easy; leaving little room for incorrect, injury-causing, cool-down.

When DH and I originally discussed these, we read they can be uncomfortable to use but that’s part of the process. Sure enough, as I moved across the roller, the weight of my body applied pressure to the targeted areas.  Those pressure-points are where you pause in the process.

At one point, DH laughed as I used a four-letter word to express my discomfort. I worked through it then realized it was really helping. While I usually feel tense for a while after a run, stretching properly helped eliminate that. As soon as I was done, I encouraged DH to try it also and he agreed that it felt much better than expected.

While I love gadgets of all kinds – exercise, kitchen, technology – they often end up being space hogs. From looking at these online, I expected them to be big and bulky like a water noodle. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Empower Fitness foam roller to be compact, yet effective. As you can see from the photo of the roller next to my arm, the length is only about 14 inches. (And if you’re curious, my arm is equipped with a FitBit Flex and a Nike+ FuelBand. Yes, I wear them both every day. They’re my modern-day version of Swatch watches.)

Overall, I found the foam roller to be helpful and easy to use. I’m certain it will help keep my muscles from hating me after I work out!

You can purchase the Empower Fitness R&R kit online. Catch up with Empower on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Additional workout guides and videos are available on Empower’s website.

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