If we break down the importance of activities we do in the day to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we usually start with nutrition and exercise. But, what about when we train hard and start to feel sore all the time? Well, that is where recovery takes it’s place in our day by taking a little chunk out of the big two.
Each time we set out on a workout, we are putting our bodies through a small amount of trauma. Each lift, stride, push, and pull causes micro tears in our muscles. The soreness we feel is our body doing it’s best to heal us and adapt, so that the next time we workout, we are better prepared for it! It’s the process that makes us stronger and stronger. That is our natural process of recovery!
While our bodies are fully capable of recovering on their own, they are also kinda just okay at their job. The reason being, we use our circulatory system to get nutrients to the body to start healing our muscles. Since you lift, you also know that more blood can flow to your muscles when active, than at rest. So, if you recover when you’re at rest, you aren’t getting maximum blood flow to where you really need it, and thus missing out on valuable nutrients that could be helping you recover faster.
Now, there are a couple ways we can help ourselves recover faster and assisting our body by getting more blood flow to the rest of the body.
The first two tools are free and boy are they effective:
SLEEP & STRETCHING
Before ya start looking for any tools to help you with your WHOOP recovery score, focus on the absolute champion of performance; a full night’s rest. 7-9 hours of sleep is the recommended amount of time you need each night of uninterrupted rest in order to maximize your sleep’s effectiveness. While you sleep, blood flow increases and greatly improves your bodies ability to repair muscles damages from exercise in the days prior.
On top of this, stretching before bed can help further increase blood flow to the areas you need to focus on most (the areas where you are most sore) and help you sleep deeper. Vegvisir athletes get free stretching routines on Thursday’s and Sunday’s to help with this and boost your performance! Look out for a blog post talking more about how important these tools are, because now we are going over what everyone really likes to talk about:
Recovery Gadgets and Gizmos!
When we talk about recovery tools, we are generally talking about tools that involve myofascial release. All that means is that we use sliding pressure to break apart “knots” or painful areas in our muscles (knots usually feel like hard beads or bumps in the muscle, and are generally quite painful when pressure is applied).
These tools we are about to mention are all going to be popular in the CrossFit/Fitness space and you have definitely seen one or two at the gym. You probably have one of them, a foam roller, in your house right now! Well let’s go over some of them, what makes a good product, and see if some of these tools are right for you!
These foam or rubber wrapped plastic logs can be found in the corner of almost every American living room. You can find them in our gym next to our check-in desks!
In order to use a foam roller, all you need is a hard surface, gravity, and possibly somewhere soft to put your fore arm. In order to use an object like this properly, it is best to use it directly after a workout. The reason this is recommended, is that when we are dealing with knots there are is usually trapped blood being slowed by these knots. The increased blood flow can assist the foam roller get it’s job done!
Just find a knot, put as much weight on it as you can while it feeling like it is being rolled out (not like you are being stabbed). Roll back and forth and apply pressure as you feel more relaxed throughout the routine. Limit your time on each area to a couple minutes and don’t push through agonizing pain!
As far as what do we recommend brand wise? Make sure you get one that is hard enough to work (there should be very little to no give, like pushing in on a basketball). The cheap SPRI one from target will work just as well as the one with added edges and a famous athlete on it. There are also some that vibrate which is pretty cool and can help break apart some knots faster, if you’re interested in something like that, Hyperice offers some that work well!
In a similar category to the foam roller, we have lacrosse balls, baseballs, and vibrating massage balls. These follow the same exact application and effect as a foam roller, except you can get far more direct in the area you want to work on! Think about it like trying to cut a hole out of a piece of wood, a saw will do the trick but a drill will make sure you get the exact spot you want.
For baseballs and lacrosse balls, just take your pick! For massage balls we need to worry about what material they are made out of and the quality of the mechanism that is used to vibrate the ball. Hyperice and Trigger Point are the ones that we have used and have lasted quite a while! We have two HyperIce Hyperspheres at the gym that have seen 2+ years of commercial use and they are still ticking! If you’re thinking of checking out others, make sure they have rubber or something with a lot of grip around the outside so that it does not slide on you while you use it and that it has a reliable warranty behind the item (look for 1 year+).
These are insanely popular, and last Christmas (2020) it was pretty much what everyone got underneath the tree! Which is why we ending up covering these gizmos in this blog post here: https://vegvisircrossfit.com/2021-2-1-massage-guns-crossfit-equipment-series/
If you’re looking for a summary: Massage guns are kinda like Ray’s Pizza stores in New York City, no one got to legal protection fast enough so now everyone makes one and says their the best. Hyperice is quite the quality brand, but if you don’t feel like spending $300 on a massage gun, focus on finding some that are: quiet, have multiple speeds, multiple head selections, and have a good 1+ year warranty under their belts!
How do they work? These guns essentially punch the muscle 100s of times per minute and focus on breaking apart muscle with a hammering effect and is applied with the same motion that you would use with a foam roller or massage ball.
This is the last one we will cover and it is also the priciest. Started by the Normatec company, these were designed for hospital patients suffering from compartment syndrome. What these things do is that you slide them over your legs and/or arms, hook them up to what is essentially a fancy air compressor, and then a program slowly fills small pads of air one by one heading towards the body. The doctor who ended up first designed this product ended up realizing that this product could end up helping athletes with recovery by increasing blood flow to the areas applied and started to sell them under the Normatec name.
Now there are a couple brands, but because the price point is high (lowest price pair can run ya $400 while some of the best are $899+) and they have a medical use, there are less horses in the race. What matters to you, is that it works the way you want and has a proper amount of intensity settings to deal with the level of relative soreness you experience.
While they are expensive, it can be worth it for athletes who like to multitask or just don’t like/want to use the previous products above. All ya gotta do is turn on a program and sit back and relax for 20 minutes as the sleeves do their thing.
Normatec and Rapid Reboot are the two brands we have used and that athlete’s at our gym have used and we have not heard of many problems popping up with them yet.
Time to Focus On Recovery!
Now remember, before you go nuts on getting all these nifty tools, master the basics! Focus on improving your sleep routine and start stretching and see how much better you feel in your training. Once you’ve exhausted your efforts there, then by all means, see how these tools help you. We have some at Vegvisir that you can always try and see if it is something you would like to use more than at the gym.
If you are interested in improving you training and recovery, but you aren’t a Vegvisir Athlete yet? Go ahead and click the “Free Intro” button at the top right of your screen to schedule a time to come talk with a Vegvisir Coach to talk about your goals and see how we can help you!