Exercise Recovery Tools That Are Great For Runners
Recovering after a workout is just as important as the actual workout itself. Easing muscle soreness and getting the blood flowing gets your body ready for the next hard effort. And ultimately it helps you work harder for longer so you don't get injured or burn out in the middle of your season. Runners use a variety of exercise tools that they love to help the recovery process.
The number one exercise recovery tool is sleep; you can check research on it. Or, you could cut a few hours out of your sleep each night and see how that goes for your training. Of course I'm entirely kidding and I do not think you should do that. I don't want you to get hurt. But you definitely would learn the power of sleep!
Active recovery techniques can help loosen tight muscles, relax your mind and body by activating your parasympathetic system, and improve blood flow to offset inflammation.
I have a whole bin of recovery tools in my home that I absolutely love and at this point can't live without. They help me with self-massage, stretching, and otherwise relaxing my sore muscle each and every week.
Let's talk about them!
Rope stretching is a great technique to use for active, or dynamic, stretching. Help your muscle reach their full natural range of motion by giving it a gentle tug at the top of the stretch. The theory is that it prevents us from over stretching our muscles causing the protective reflex they activate when fearful of tearing. Contracting the muscle opposite of the one you're stretching (ex: hamstring - quad) also helps the working muscle relax and get further in its range of motion.
Vibrating Massage Tools
The Hyperice products I acquired over quarantine to give an extra hand while massage places were closed have become my new best friends! I use both the Hypervolt Massage Gun and the Vibrating Massage Ball Mini.
These tools help athletes get benefits similar to being worked on by a massage therapist. But you can do it yourself at home, saving time and money. I still like my massages (always will!) but having this in between or in place of has been crucial in my recovery routine.
The downside to these tools is you can get really comfortable just using them...however. While running them up and down your legs might do something, try researching techniques to get the most out of them. I have a quick video explaining how I use the gun on YouTube.
Simple and small, but really powerful! Perfect for use on the lower part of your body (feet, calves, shins) rolling on a lacrosse ball helps dig into these smaller, stabilizing muscles that are oh-so-important for athletic performance. If you need a different size or are in a pinch, golf balls and baseballs are also super effective.
They're also perfect for travel- I'm never on the road without one.
Massage Rollers & Sticks
Foam rolling is a myofascial release technique that you can easily do on yourself! Fascie do a lot of things in the body, but myofasciae refers specifically to the connective tissues that interact directly with your muscles. Aka their health is really important for your athletic performance! Myofasciae help your muscles contract and relax, but sometimes (like after a hard workout) your muscles need a little help relaxing. When in doubt, roll it out!
Foam rollers and massage sticks are both great for before the workout as well as for cool downs and recovery. They relieve tension in muscles, increase range of motion and flexibility and help alleviate muscle soreness.
The foam roller is the best combination of worthwhile and budget friendly of ALL recovery products. A must have!
As runners, our legs are not the only things that get tired on our body! Constantly swinging arms, heavy lifts, etc... our backs go through it too. On top of that, the daily demands of laptops, phones, or sitting at a desk really stress out our necks and backs.
Enter: wall ball! This just makes self back massages that much easier because it suctions to the wall and you can use it to get hard to reach knots. I love it.
You also can get creative with it, propping it up on different furniture or the floor to get trigger points in your arms, legs, and glutes.
Another tool I use for those hard to reach back spots is the Thera Cane. Its been a staple in my recovery box for years because you can turn it every which way to reach different places on the body. I mainly use it for beneath the shoulder blades, but you can also put more pressure on hips, glutes, lower back, and legs!
Finding a recovery routine that your body responds well to is important. Make sure to listen to your body and treat it good- we ask for a lot from them and should do our part to upkeep them!