Recovery Best Practices
Finishing Your Workout As Strong As It Started
Our bodies put up with a lot from us, from long trail runs to the late night and early morning workout combinations. The fatigue builds both from athletic pursuits and the everyday stressors of balancing training, work, and life. No matter the sport, we can all benefit from spending some time on recovery between efforts. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so listen to your body and find the tools and routine that works for you.
We’ve come a long way from the days of the simple foam cylinder in the corner of a gym’s weight room. From massage guns to redesigned foam rollers, there are a myriad of options to help you recover better.
What began as a tool exclusively in a physical therapist’s office, a massage gun—also called a percussive therapy device—has reached the home gym level. Percussive therapy works by sending pulses of pressure through the muscle fascia, targeting both surficial and deeper muscle fibers.
This tool can assist with activating muscles before activity as well as soothing sore muscles after hard efforts. The pulses help break up stiffness to keep you limber for the next workout. Most units have several settings for speed of pulses, several attachments for targeting pressure, and companion apps to get the most from your massage time.
Hyperice and Therabody produce a range of massage guns to suit your needs. If you’re looking for a unit to travel with, the Hyperice Hypervolt GO is a compact unit that fits easily in your race bag, with a range of settings to warm up or recover. For the true professional experience, the Therabody Theragun PRO offers an adjustable neck to target hard-to-reach muscle groups and five speed settings for a customized massage.
We’ve likely come across the fitness buff who swears by rolling out on a length of PVC pipe, but we promise there are better and less painful ways. Foam rolling, like percussive therapy, aims to increase blood flow and relax tension. Rolling out is a great complement to your stretching or yoga routine, helping your body release between workouts.
Trigger Point Therapy’s The Grid Roller has become an instant classic when it comes to foam rollers. The multi-density foam works like a massage therapist’s hands to promote circulation throughout the muscles. The 13in length stores easily in most spaces and is compact enough to bring on the road. For more thorough roll-outs, the Grid 2.0 is twice the length at 26in, great for rolling out larger muscle groups. Alternatively, a massage stick or ball like Trigger Point’s STK or TP Massage Ball make an easy addition to your travel kit for races or long riding weekends.
Compression Boots & Tights
Compression boots like the Hyperice Normatec Pulse 2.0 Recovery Boots use air compression to help flush tired muscles after hard efforts, speeding up recovery and reducing soreness. A companion app controls the compression’s pulses and pressure right from your phone while you kick back with your favorite beverage.
On the lower-tech end, compression tights can offer muscle support and accelerated recovery, without the bulk of compression boots. Brands like 2XU and CWX have innovated the construction of tights to help your muscles perform and recover better.
Heating & Icing
Heating muscles after a ride or run can pay dividends—eat helps blood vessels to expand, which can improve circulation to a specific area or the whole body in the case of a sauna or steam room. In addition to the benefits to blood flow, there is the pure relaxation of a steam room to aid in your mental recovery too.
On the opposite end, icing an area or in the case of an ice bath can decrease inflammation, helping you to recover better. Ice baths should never be as long as your candle-and-podcast time in the tub. Rather, experts recommend 7-12 minutes as a good baseline immediately after a hard effort. Take stock of your body and how it feels, and adjust this time as needed.
Fitness Apps & Connectivity
Fitness platforms like Strava and TrainingPeaks can help keep track of your efforts, so you can better assess when to ease off for a rest day or start to taper for that big event. Keeping track of trends will be more useful than a single workout’s information. For example, you can see if those consecutive big days in the mountains dug you into a hole, and it’s time for an easy week.
Other apps like Whoop and FitBit can track your general exertion and sleep too, for a more complete picture of your fatigue. Each platform has catalogs of how-to guides to get familiar with reading the data to get the most out of the app for your performance.
Even with the best recovery tech and tools, your body will be at its best with proper care and attention at every level. Nutrition, sleep, and monitoring stress can help you perform your best and feel ready for the next workout, whether intervals up a local climb or keeping up with your dog on the trails.