This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on running without injury:
- Part 1 – What I Did to Avoid Running Injuries for the Past 3 Years
- Part 2 [You are here] – What’s in my Recovery Toolkit?
- Part 3 – Injury is Not Normal
I’m 35. Not exactly over the hill, but I know I don’t recover like I used to.
But… I can still train like I used to.
I have no trouble doing multiple sessions in a day. Even double run days. But I have to be on top of my recovery.
So I thought I’d share with you what comprises my recovery toolbox.
Let’s start by visualising it! Not new, not shiny, not professional… It’s an old Protein bucket. And that’s the way I roll. Industry will sell you recovery all day long but it doesn’t have to be $90 massage sessions and inaccessible hyperbaric chambers. I will show you the exact product I use (it’s usually the cheapest) and if possible I will give you ideas for the poor man’s version.
1. Yoga Tune Up balls
If you don’t currently have a recovery protocol, these spongey little balls will change the way you view athleticism. Versatile in use, the YTU balls allow targeted self-myofascial release (self massage) of your hotspots.
I use them daily for loosening glutes and plantar fascia, and a few times a week for other tight areas. 2 – 4 minutes on each hotspot is all you need. For around USD 15, you can’t go wrong.
Poor man’s version: any small to medium sized sports ball. Lacrosse balls are perfect but a golf or cricket ball will also work.
2. Foam Roller
The staple of anybody’s recovery toolbox, the foam roller does all the stuff you know you should do but don’t want to because it hurts too much.
Foam rollers vary in size, surface and in price but they all do the same thing and they are getting cheaper. If you’re in Australia, Kmart are now doing a $15 version, otherwise just check ebay.
I use mine each day to stretch out my back (I just lay over it backwards) and a few times a week to roll out ITB and my calves.
Poor man’s version: if you’re using it to stretch out your back you can roll up some towels, however there aren’t many other devices that work for rolling out muscles. Don’t use a glass bottle, for obvious reasons but I’ve heard of people using a plastic bottle with frozen water…
I don’t know what else to call it other than a band! Maybe Power Band or Resistance Band? This rubber… band comes in varying resistance levels and is around $20-$30.
Bands are also good for supporting your body weight while finding a good running posture. We use these a lot in my Running Technique progression. If you’re interested in running well and reducing the risk of injury, this is a great place to start.
Great for stretching you can get kinda freaky with this and mobilitywod.com (more on this later).
Poor man’s version: a towel. Plain old towel to help you reach for places you can’t grab just yet.
4. Oxygen Saturation Monitor
A Sp02 monitor measures the level of oxygen in your blood. Usually reserved for those who are sick, you can get pretty techy and prove the health and science textbooks wrong with one of these.
While a monitor is not essential to your recovery toolbox, the breathing protocol I do is essential. This monitor gives you heart rate and oxygen saturation and helps you get to know your own physiology and how far you can push it. For $20 on ebay, it is a fun little toy.
Poor man’s version: just guess. If you hold your breath for too long you’ll just pass out! The Sp02 monitor might beep at you if you know your limits but if you pass out it’s just for a moment!
5. Calf Compression
The science and athletic jury are still out on the effectiveness of this one. I personally, however, see huge benefits with calf compression after training.
In fact, after a big run I sleep in them. I also jump rope a lot and that puts tremendous strain on calves. I really beat my calves up but when I wake up the next day my and calves and soleus are good to go. Try not to skimp on these as they have different weights of compression. I use 2XU and they have been great. Expect to pay around $50-$60.
Poor man’s version: there are cheaper versions on the market but check their compression weight. Obviously the looser it is the less effective but try it out- you may still get benefit.
6. Voodoo Floss Band
Known as Compression Tacking, Voodoo Floss restores joint mechanics by locking down the sliding surfaces (skin) and forces a joint to move independently. It can also be used to compress swelling out of tissues and joints. They are just a length of natural latex rubber that can be used to wrap around a joint, muscle or tendon.
If my ankles are stiff after a brutal trail run I wrap my ankle tightly and move it through complete range of motion for 30-60 seconds before releasing the band. Doing this 2-3 times in succession has an incredible effect on freeing up the joints. I also use this a lot on calves if they have gone stiff or cold. For $25 these things are a bargain.
Poor man’s version: If you already have a resistance band (above) you may be able to use it for flossing. Otherwise you’ll have to find something long, strong and elastic!
This one is absolutely essential. Go to www.mobilitywod.com and get yourself a recurring membership. For less than $10 a month you get the most extensive, thoughtful, effective, actionable, and thoroughly entertaining library of self help for the every-day athlete. Kelly Starrett is an Osteo, Crossfit athlete and owner, and very knowledgeable and funny guy. There is usually one new video each day.
Kelly presents short (6-8 minute) videos with solutions to injuries, new thinking on recovery and injury prevention. And this is all actionable. You can do it right there, with him. He is very aware that most people are busy and his videos reflect that. Looking after yourself can be done in just a few minutes per day.
I cannot speak highly enough of this service. This must be in your recovery toolbox. I’m not even giving you a poor man’s option. This subscription will save you so much money by not needing to see osteos and physios that this IS the poor man’s version!
8. The Marc Pro
The Marc Pro is an electro muscle stimulator in which you attach pads to a muscle and ‘shock’ the muscle to move many times per minute involutarily. This flushes the muscle of wastage to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness and reduce the likelihood of injury.
I use this after almost all of my training sessions. In particular, after long runs, high intensity sessions and weightlifting sessions it gets the muscles moving again to flush out byproducts.
This is spency, though. The model I have is just under USD 1000. But if you can afford it, it is worthwhile. If you can’t afford it:
Poor man’s version: do everything above. Recovery doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be targeted and regular. Remember, the quicker your body returns to a normal status the more healthy, stronger and fitter you become, and the quicker you can train/ play again.
I must add an honourable mention here;
While it doesn’t sit in my recovery tool bucket, good food is a big driver for quick recovery. When you train inflammation builds up in your body. You want to eat foods that reduce inflammation. Keep that in mind…
In the Running Technique progression I’ll show you the best way to build your own recovery toolbox based on the type of recovery you personally require most.