As triathletes our bodies take a beating day after day. The thought of using recovery to get faster is probably at the back of our minds. I personally have never been fond of days off, “recovery” days, “tapering” or resting. Unfortunately if you don’t take care of your body eventually it will break down and which may lead to injury.
Even with rest and recovery we’re still pretty hard on our bodies. Here are some ‘tools’ I use (or have tried) to help promote recovery and healing to be as fresh as possible for my next training session.
- PVC pipe – This has been my best friend since recovering from stress fractures in 2007. I roll out on a 3 inch PVC pipe following every run and ride. Rolling on a PVC pipe is pretty intense if you’re not used to it, a four inch PVC pipe is a little less intense. The grid foam roller is probably a good place to start if you haven’t been rolling.
- Dimpled Softball – I typically use this on my hamstrings and glutes but it’s also good for the inner thighs. The softball can dig into those painful spots a bit better than the flat surface of the PVC pipe. Carrying a softball while traveling is also much easier than carrying a PVC pipe.
- Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls – I put two of these together and lie on my back, lining the balls up on each side of my spine, slowly roll up and down my back. If that’s too intense you can do the same but against the wall. These are also great to work into your glute muscles.
- Golf Ball – This is great for rolling your feet on, if you suffer from any plantar fasciitis I find this helps a lot. I’ve also used this in replacement of my PVC pipe when traveling; the golf ball is great to roll your calves on.
- Trigger Point Massage Ball – This massage ball can be heated or frozen, I had high hopes for this but was rather disappointed. Frozen it just felt awkward to roll on and when heated or just room temp it’s too soft to massage your muscles well.
- The cane – The knobs on the cane are great for digging into some of the tough places like along the IT band or the edge of your quad. The nice thing about this tool is you control the pressure, similar to self-massage but using a harder surface. I’ve also used it to dig into my calves and hamstrings.
- Rumble roller – I was hoping this would be somewhat massage-like but was highly disappointed. I found it really uncomfortable on the legs, I think the grid foam roller is more what I was looking for. The one place I found it helpful/tolerable was the back, it could work into the muscle a bit more and my back is much less sensitive.
- Step stretch – This looked like a convenient way to stretch your calf, but I actually find it more complex. Hanging your heel off the edge of a step is much easier and I feel the stretch way better.
- Calf stretcher – This was hand made by a personal trainer that happened to outfit my gym in college; I tracked him down last year to buy one. I should use this way more than I do since it’s the simplest tool. All you have to do is stand on the angle of the box with your back to the wall. Five minutes on this and your calves are pretty loose.
- Compex – I find the compex is a great tool and also fairly simple. I often bring it to work and can rig myself up while sitting at my desk. I use it mostly for recovery/massage; I It works well to help loosen up between tough sessions.
- VooDoo Floss Band – These bands are helpful when I have a nagging ache somewhere. I’ll band up the areas surrounding along with the nagging area. The intense compression is similar to Norma Tec boots but localized in the area you really need it. Stretching with the bands on seems to really help loosen everything up.
- Compression clothing – I wear compression socks pretty regularly now post workout to aid in recovery. I also have a couple pairs of compression shorts. I find the most compressive gear to be CEP, I have CEP Run Socks and CEP run shorts which are my favorite.
- Vitamins – I take a fairly standard daily vitamin along with a few other supplements. I’ve had low iron in the past and taking vitamins regularly seems to keep me well balanced.
- Epsom – I take Epsom baths a few times a week. I used to wake up everyday with horrible plantar fasciitis pain in my heels, after starting Epsom soaks this pain has basically disappeared. As an added bonus, taking an Epsom bath forces me to relax for 15 minutes, something there’s not much time for in my weekly routine.
- Massage – It’s definitely a bigger investment if you want to get regular massages but the benefit is huge. A massage therapist can get into those hard to reach places and help release your muscles. I recommend finding someone with experience with triathletes or you may end up in worse shape than when you went it.
- The stick – This tool is great for travel. It’s not as intense as the PVC pipe but will work when there’s limited space. I’ll forewarn you, it may be hard to explain its use when traveling abroad but a short demonstration cleared that up quickly.
I don’t think there’s a magic bullet here but definitely some tools that can help you keep moving forward. If you had a different experience with any of these or have some cool tool I haven’t tried, feel free to leave me a note in the comments.
If all this fails and your body is still in pain, it’s probably time to take a day off. Kick back, relax and watch some TV, or check out funny animal videos on YouTube and have a good laugh.