Gear I Hold Dear: The Trigger Point Performance GRID Foam Roller

One runner’s relationship with foam rolling is … complicated.

My body is screaming. I bite down hard and exhale harder, a desperate attempt to quell the pain like that one yoga instructor on YouTube taught me. I’m prone on the floor, propped on my elbows, attempting to roll my quadriceps against a foam-covered cylinder, and it’s not going well. A bead of sweat rolls from my temple to my cheek, where it pools into a laugh line that reminds me how I used to be happy.

I began running more than a decade ago. After stints as a “cyclist” and a “climber,” I immediately latched onto the sport that asked almost nothing of me or my wallet. Step one: Put on shoes. Step two: Run. There’s something beautiful about an activity so simple.

But no one told me that my beautifully simple sport came with a caveat: hamstrings and quads tighter than a wound-up rubber band. That’s where the Trigger Point Performance GRID foam roller came in.

Localized foam rolling helps stimulate and release muscle knots or trigger points. The catch is that it’s no luxurious spa rubdown. And when you’re controlling the pressure on your own tenderized quads, it’s easy to throw in the towel. But you have to convince yourself pain is good.

For me, that didn’t happen until after yet another 10-mile run turned into three nonnegotiable rest days. At that point, I had tried everything: stretching, compression socks and even ice baths. This isn’t to suggest that those things aren’t effective for some runners—they can be. But they hadn’t offered me the timely recovery I was after.

Trigger Point Performance GRID Foam Roller

And so, I bought a Trigger Point Performance GRID foam roller, which kind of looks like a cross between a pool toy and a medieval Wiffle ball bat. It’s a hollow tube, about a foot long, and covered in deceptively soft, gridded foam. It is not intimidating.

With all the grace of a newborn foal, I flung my sore body onto the floor, sandwiching the foam roller between my thigh and the navy shag. I rocked back and forth on my elbows, using my body weight as a cantilever, beginning to roll the cylinder the length of my quadricep. This isn’t so bad, I naively thought to myself.

Then, it happened. The Trigger Point inched to a spot on the outside of my thigh, where it invited a throng of fiery demons from my IT band and a string of new-to-me curse words. I threw myself off the foam roller, which seemed a little more like a torture device, writhing on the floor in my self-inflicted discomfort. This cannot be worth it, I lamented.

But it was. Almost instantaneously, my leg felt renewed—and ready for another run. I laced up my shoes and hit the pavement that afternoon. Then I did it again the next day and the day after that. Gone were my days-long recovery periods and stiff-legged hobbling around the house. Instead, I became a dutiful and regimented roller of foam, forcing myself onto the Trigger Point Performance GRID and trusting the process, painful as it is in the moment.

Running is beautifully simple. Step one: Put on shoes. Step two: Run. Step three: Roll.

For more odes about our favorite stuff, check our Gear I Hold Dear series.