RECOVERY > TRAINING
As the years go on and I grow older, the amount of time I spend on recovery has grown exponentially. In my situation, it has become more important than the actual training. Now, don't get me wrong, practice is necessary, but the reality is if you(I) don't spend time recovering, appropriately, all that training is going to be for naught, and then you(I) wind up injured. As an endurance athlete, recovery is instrumental in establishing longevity and the following recovery tools and methods are how I survive.
The reality is, most injuries are preventable with proper movement prep and targeted recovery. When we adequately warm our muscles up before activity, and we are diligent about performing all of the appropriate actions to recover, we set our bodies up for success to conquer whatever it is we're trying to accomplish. It makes no difference whether it's going for a run, training for a race, summiting a mountain, going fishing, skiing, rowing, or merely taking on the day including all that happens from dusk till dawn. Every movement requires a balance of prep, training, and recovery. I could go on and on about movement prep, after all, that's what we do over at Vimocity - where I work. What I am here to tell you about are some of my favorite recovery tools and how I've used them to battle pain the past four years that has manifested in my sacrum, IT band, piriformis, hip flexor, and hamstring. It's been a rough roller coaster with one gluteus medius that has stopped working, entirely.
These are a few of my favorite methods of recovery, I use them interchangeably based on what type of therapy I need at the time, and I am in no way a doctor or medical professional - proceed at your own risk. When I say that I use these tools based on what I need, I evaluate my body and what kind of pain I am experiencing, then decide which device and method to use to treat the issue best. So for example, if my fascia is tight and my hamstrings and IT bands are all wound up, I would use my Tiger Tail to roll things out. But, if I have tightness in my piriformis, instead of the Tiger Tail, I would sit down on one of my Orb balls, digging in deep and rolling all the crunchies out.
Just like you change oil and do maintenance on your car, so should you for your body and in no particular order, these are some of the kinds of ongoing maintenance I do to keep myself moving.
Top 10 Recovery Tools and Methods
-Yoga- (4 Recovery Methods)
This is probably my favorite recovery method out of all of them, with Hot Yoga and sometimes not-so-hot yoga, I find the imbalances in my body, from my feet to my core, to my neck and everything between and through focused movements I'm able to realign things and work towards fixing those imbalances as I discover them. I like to practice a variety of yoga disciplines In no particular order my favorites are:
Hot & Warm Hatha
with this practice you go through a sequence of moves that typically begins on your feet, it is an old system that includes the practice of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Personally, I find that this practice leaves me feeling quite balanced when I walk out of the hot facility. The whole thing brings peace to the mind and body and prepares the body for more profound spiritual practices such as meditation. By focusing on the breath, it's easy to find yourself in a meditative state, lying in Shavasana can take you where you need to go. It's pure bliss.
Hot & Warm Vinyasa
Vinyasa is more of a workout than it is recovery, but at the same time these active stretches are super beneficial for overall muscle development, this practice has helped begin the painful process of fixing my right hip. Vinyasa basically translates into meaning the movement that is synchronized with the inhalations and exhalations of breath, the whole hour is this vigorous, rapid flow style that usually puts you through a variety of sun salutation variations.
Yin is one of my favorite forms of yoga, it's the most meditative (it's straightforward to fall asleep sometimes) as it's a slow-paced style in which poses are held for five minutes or longer. While this is a passive form, yin yoga is challenging because of how long you're in the holds. The purpose of these long holds at 60-70% of your depth is to apply moderate stress to the connective tissue - the tendons, fascia, and ligaments - with an aim to increase circulation in your joints and ultimately improve your flexibility.
The Dharma Wheel is actually a tool used to enhance yoga, and it is fantastic; it's a giant wheel that helps you to move deeper into yoga postures. This wheel is designed to assist in taking backbends deeper and aiding the yogi to gain flexibility in a few ways. It's a great way to mix things up and take your practice to another level.
-Tools- (6 Recovery Tools)
One of my favorite tools is this cane shaped contraption. Basically, you can use any combination of the nobs to apply pressure to targeted knots in your muscles. The force applied to the knots in the muscles maximizes the flow of oxygenated blood to those muscles. The pressure helps assist muscle function by breaking up all of the adhesions in your muscle fibers and tendons. With this increased circulation your muscles will begin to work more efficiently and thus heal more effectively.
Bellecore Body Buffer
Oh, how I love my Body Buffer. It is one of the most fun body manipulators I own, and it's probably the most fun to take through the TSA. I usually leave it in my bag, and I'll just watch the agent who's reviewing the x-rays, their faces say it all. "What the F is that?!" every time. I love it. But the thing is, the body buffer is probably the best tool there is, it helps to massage your body in a fun way that gets as deep as you're willing to drive it. I find this helps my muscles and fascia to recover from hard mountain runs faster than without it.
An obvious choice, this torture device has become one of the most well known and is easily a favorite. Some people dread the foam roller, but you can't deny it's one of the best tools around. In my situation, I use this for my back since I have all kinds of crunchies in there. It's a mess. But runners will often roll out their hips, IT bands, and quads. This tool is versatile and can roll out many parts of the body; they come in a variety of sizes and shapes, some with varying degrees of knobs that can make things more intense.
It's the same concept as using various size balls ranging from a golf ball to a lacrosse ball to a softball, typically I find the ones with a harder density provide the most bang for your buck, but when it comes down to purchasing an excellent specialized product I love my Orb, it takes care of a lot of the deep knots in my piriformis, my hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulder blades. I highly recommend adding this rolling type device to your collection of torture; I mean recovery devices.
I don't love the Tiger Tail just because it goes so well with my social media handle "La Tigre," the real reason I love it is for its simplicity. Unlike the many rolling sticks that either A. look like a kabob of various sized spheres or B. the other types that have those plastic cylindrical roller thingies whose purpose is solely to pinch you, the Tiger Tail has none of that it is just one solid rolling piece. This design gives you the ability to apply more direct pressure than I've been able to with any other type of rolling stick. Definitely, a MUST HAVE for rolling just about every muscle group.
Probably the most controversial recovery method on this list, cupping is something you saw a lot of talk about during the Olympics. The way this technique works is by using special cups; there are a few kinds out there; personally, I use the kind where you attach a pump. How this recovery method works is the suction of the cup and the negative pressure that is provided by cupping loosens muscles, stimulate blood flow, and sedate the nervous system. It may seem a bit intense, but when used properly, it can be beneficial. Don't overdo it; this is one of those things you only do when needed, this is not meant to be a treatment you do every day. You can use cupping to relieve back pain and neck pain or knotty, stiff muscles. If you don't mind walking around with a bunch of circular bruises for a few days, this is your tool.
For years I've been experimenting and playing with all kinds of recovery methods, sometimes I like what I try enough to incorporate it into my routine, oftentimes, however, I find myself with another "useless" piece of equipment. These tools above have stood the test of time and have become deeply incorporated into my self-care and body maintenance routine. It's important to take care of our bodies, so we have good movement health not just right now, but for as much of our lives as possible. I've done a lot of damage to my body over the years, but I'm doing everything I can to reverse the damage. What are you doing to improve your movement health and recovery from hard efforts or injuries? Share your favorites in the comments.