When it comes to running, the devil is in the details. One devil to tackle and keep away is injury. Nine times out of ten, a muscle in your body is going to react to your running regimen with a "hey, what the heck" S.O.S call. Keeping muscles calm and loose comes from your stretching regimen but also from what I like to call, "massage maintenance".
There are many massage resources to maintain a healthy, tension-free body. Meet my best friends: the tennis ball, the lacrosse ball, the PVC pipe, the foam roller, "The Stick", and my newest favorite, the "Trigger Point".
In order of least pressure to highest/specific pressure...
1. The Firm Black Foam Roller
You can use this puppy anywhere. My favorite use is to bring it perpendicular to my back and roll it along my spine. Your body will thank you with a couple of audible cracks. The foam roller is an excellent tool for a soft to medium release of your ITB band
. Focus on the tender spots by leaving the roller static for 30 seconds. Then release up and down from below your hip bone to above your knee. Never roll out on a joint (ie: knee cap). It can be used along your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads with a similar idea.
2. The Stick
This is a great on-the-go massage tool. You can control the intensity of the massage with your own pressure. The motion is the same as the foam roller, up and down. static holds, to tiny back and forth movements. The best way to use it is with someone else "rolling you out" so you can relax as much as possible. Put this one in your backpack when you're traveling to your race and you'll be perfectly warmed up before start time. The stick is best used on the calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes.
3. Trigger Point
What I love about this is it's as easy to use as the foam roller, yet the grid pattern along it and PVC pipe interior allow for a stronger pressure. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is about a 6.5 in terms of intensity. Use this just as you would use the foam roller, but be prepared for a deeper massage.
4. The Tennis Ball
and The Lacrosse Ball
With a monstrous affect on releasing muscle tension, these two tools really get to the root or the knot that might be aggravating your muscles, and thus your aching joints. To really get a full workout on that knot, roll on these on a hardwood floor, there will be more "oomph" that gives back. Really focus on the trouble spot with a good, slow back and forth. Your body will thank you!
4. The PVC Pipe
This requires a bizarre, sometimes, awkward visit to the hardware store. You will say, "Hey can you cut me half a yard of PVC pipe?" to which Bob the Hardware Man, will reply, "Sure what home improvement project can I help you with?" And you'll say, "well..." and further explain that you are a neurotic runner and need a borderline masochist tool to loosen up your finely taught muscle fibers. Please use with caution and similar motion as with the foam roller. This is a wonderful IT band cure and can be modified depending on the surface you roll on. Here's a good example below with a rug and towel: