Hey, listen up. If you're neglecting your running recovery, you're not gonna be running for long.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, running is hard on your body.
Your muscles are getting the workout but your connective tissue, joints, and even your bones are getting pounded as well.
The best thing you can do for your body after a hard run is to allow it to properly rest and recover.
For some of you, that might mean having a recovery beer and going on another hard run the next day...more power to you!
For me it means getting a lot of sleep, eating well, and using my favorite recovery gear to help massage, stretch, and strengthen my body after a tough workout.
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Let's talk about some of my favorite recovery gear, and why I love using them...
Extra thick yoga mat
The first item on this list might not be an obvious one, but it's definitely the piece of equipment that gets the most use.
Whether I'm foam rolling, stretching, or doing yoga, this extra thick yoga mat has made my life so much softer!
Traditional yoga mats are anywhere between 1/8" - 1/4" thick and, yes, they do provide some level of protection from the ground, but for me it just wasn't enough.
My hands would hurt when foam rolling for more than a few minutes. My knees would kill me every time I did stretches that required me to kneel (like a hip flexor stretch). And my elbows would get shooting pain when I had to prop myself up on them.
It just sucked.
I eventually bought this extra thick yoga mat and it has been sooo nice! It's a thick, dense material so it really supports me and eases the pressure on elbows, knees, hips and hands.
Whenever I do any recovery stretches or rolling, it's on this mat.
Oh, and I also stand on it when I'm using my stand-up desk...heaven on the feet too!
TheraFlow foot roller
Again, this might not be the first thing you think about when you're dreaming about recovery gear, but this TheraFlow foot roller has been a gift for my feet. I'm sure any simple foot roller will work fine, this just happens to be the one I have.
I've been dealing with plantar fasciitis recently which has made my feet super tender, especially a day or so after my runs. After figuring out that it was plantar fasciitis my wife actually bought me this foot roller.
I had read mixed reviews about rolling as a form of treatment, and honestly, I don't think rolling alone would fix your plantar fasciitis. But one thing this has been amazing for is pain management!
Generally after a run I wake up the next morning with severe heel and foot pain. It's so bad I have to limp around the house for the first 15-20 minutes after getting out of bed. I used to do a couple of stretches, and they would help, but only to a degree.
Now when I wake up I immediately roll my feet for a few minutes and the pain is way more tolerable. It's not totally gone, but it's much better!
I've read up a bit more on foot rolling and most people recommend it as a great addition to your everyday running recovery. So even after I get over this plantar fasciitis, the foot roller will stay in my recovery gear lineup!
Ahhhh...the stick. So many jokes, so little time...I'll try to refrain.
I think it's actually called a massage stick, or muscle roller stick...but everyone affectionately knows this thing as "the stick".
The stick is similar to a foam roller but it's smaller in circumference and it's much harder (I mean, I'm not even trying) because it's made of plastic instead of foam.
Because it is handheld and fairly small, it makes it easier to get to some of the hard to reach places where a foam roller is ineffective, like your groin.
I also find it easier to use when you want to really work a tough knot or tender spot in one specific area that the foam roller might be too big for.
Another reason I love the stick is because I can use it when I'm standing or sitting at my desk. I don't always have time to "commit" to lying down and foam rolling for an extended period of time, so I tend to use the stick when I only have a few minutes to work on my muscles.
In most cases I really like using my foam roller and think it's worth the time, but I like having the option to use the stick for 90 seconds when I have some downtime on a call... It's so quick and easy I end up using it almost every day.
The foam roller
Ok, here is what everyone has been waiting for...the bread and butter of the recovery world!
But here's the thing, for any of you who are new to the game, first of all, welcome, we're so glad you're here! Second of all, there is no one-size-fits-all foam roller. There are a million different kinds from a million different brands.
Some vibrate, some are hot, some are cold, some have giant bumps, some are totally smooth, some come with a butler who provides cucumber water and a warm towel...you need to figure out what you think will work best for you. The best way to do that is to go to your local store and try a couple, the next best way is to read up on which ones are best for what.
Of course, the standard foam roller is just a tube of dense foam like this one here. It's simple, it's cheap, and it's effective, no matter what your snobby friends tell you.
I have two different foam rollers. One is the simple, cheap foam tube that I've used for several years. The downside of these is that they tend to get softer over time. So when I started noticing that I wasn't getting as deep of a massage, I decided to use that to my advantage.
I bought a TriggerPoint GRID which is very firm and provides a deep, targeted massage. It also has texture, which just means it has grooves and ridges that dig deeper into the muscles.
So now, when I'm looking to really torture myself I use the GRID, but when I want to roll with something a little softer, I use the older, foam one.
Foam rolling has become an absolute must for me. I usually roll 1-2 times per day, depending on my workout. It helps warm up your muscles and allows them to get a better stretch so it's a great thing to do before or after your workout.
For me, I would spend a lot more than $35 on a good foam roller...luckily, I don't have to.
If you have $10 to spend, get the cheapest foam roller you can, it'll work fine.
All of these items combined cost less than a decent pair of running shoes and they will improve your running a lot more.
Of course, they aren't all necessary. For me, the most important thing on this list is a foam roller. Again, it doesn't have to be a fancy one, any basic foam roller will be fine.
Even more important than that foam roller is taking the time to learn what works best for you...and actually doing it!
So many of us focus on really honing in our workout schedule and running plans, but totally forget about taking the time to properly recover! As someone who has dealt with more than his fair share of injuries, let me be an example to you! Focus on your run, then focus on allowing your body to make the most of it!
Thank you so, so much!!
Thank you for taking the time to read this article!
I hope you enjoyed what I had to say...but it would be more fun if I could hear what you have to say!!
Do you use anything else to help your body recover? Anything on this list you disagree with?