Recovery tools are so important because some days they single-handedly make intensive training possible. Do you ever feel like it’s impossible to do your speed work, long runs, and strength training all in one week? It feels like there’s no way you’re muscles could handle it! That’s where these running recovery tools come into play. In this running recovery guide, I’m going to lay out the different types of tools and then explain my favorites for each category so we can keep running until we’re 90.
I know, I’m all about the guides these days, but as a self proclaimed running gear junkie, I’ve made peace with it. You’ve gotten a shoe guide, bra guide, winter running guide, and a guide to your first marathon. I’ve even laid out 5 things that every new runner needs, but the more you get into training, the sooner you’ll find out that it can be tough on your body and difficult to sustain without a little help from outside resources. Wether they are thoughtfully engineered instruments or objects that you can find lying around the house, it’s important to use recovery tools to take better care of these bodies that do so much for us in pursuit of the sport we love.
I’m sure you seen a bunch of content out there on how to foam roll and it’s all with very good reasoning. My favorite post about it is from Jess at Hello to Fit. Foam rolling takes care of the larger muscles like glutes, quads, and calves, but is also really helpful with the IT bands and hamstrings. A lot of people even use them for exercising, stretching, and to relieve back pain. I think it’s really important to not buy a generic foam roller that is literally made of out just foam. They aren’t as stiff, precise, or helpful and there are ones out there made specifically for runners that are much more efficient.
I think it’s safe to say that Trigger Point is the most popular product in this market right now. You can find them in most all speciality running stores or pretty cheap here*on amazon. They’re nice and firm and you definitely get what you pay for because they’ll pretty much last you a lifetime.
So this is sad, but I’m pretty sure you can’t even buy these anymore. I know, then why am I even putting it on here? The purple one pictured above is what I have and love and I just wanted to use it as an example of what to look for. I love this roller because it’s firm and it has different ridge patterns for different areas. I like the rounded areas for my quads and theres a spikey part that I love using to really get into my calves. Why don’t they sell them anymore? I’m not entirely sure, but I remember hearing when I worked at Fleet Feet that there was a stupid manufacturing problem with something that had nothing to do with the rolling part itself. The idea of these were to make as a foam roller with storage and also allow them to connect to create one really long foam roller. They messed up on the connection portion, but if you just buy one single foam roller you don’t care about that.
Stick rollers are good for both the large muscles and accute pain, but the downside to them is that you can’t use your body weight as deep pressure like you can with the foam rollers. On the plus side, they are very portable, extremely multifunctional, and they are great for recovery. I use stick rollers for everything including to give myself shoulder massages. Again, you get what you pay for with these, although the two brands I love pictured below aren’t expensive at all. You can find some really really cheap ones of there that I pick up and attempt to use while I’m out shopping and it’s sad the effort you have to put in to get anything out of them.
This is a classic tool that has been around forever and isn’t going anywhere. It’s essentially just a stick with plastic rings wrapped around it, but it has a little bit of flexibility.
Is a more ridged tool. It comes in a couple of different models, but we’ll take their “A” model for example (pictured below), but I also really like this* model. Addaday is what I use and I’ve had one for about 2 years. I like it a lot because it is more ridged so you don’t have to use as much elbow grease to get into those acute muscles. I use them most often for my calves, but like I said it’s very multifunctional so sometime I’ll do my larger muscles groups, shoulders, and even my feet. Side note, it’s dishwasher safe so if you’re a germ freak you might like it even more.
Like in a foam roller, you can use your body weight to roll The Orb as a deep tissue massage. I don’t own one, but I’ve used it quite a bit. Your initial reaction to these might be “why can’t you just use a lacrosse ball?” Well, I’ll get into that in a little bit (see home tools below), but this one really does have a purpose. It’s softer and larger than anything you might find in your home, but still firm enough not to collapse under body weight. It can get a little bit deeper into muscles than a foam roller while still hitting the large muscle groups.
This thing is heaven transfigured into a small rolly foot pod. I don’t have one, but my birthday is in November and with my lingering plantarfacitis pain, it’s all I want in this world. It’s really good for getting out the small little knots that in the bridge of your foot that you may have accumulated from distance running.
I didn’t put this one on here just because it has a cool name although there’s just no denying. It’s made for quads, but its also very useful for your calves and even your feet. It almost combines a foam and stick roller in the sense that you can use your body weight for the deep pressure, but its more firm and gets into the acute spots.
This is the mack daddy of all run recovery. They’re pretty pricey hence the reason I don’t have one, but if I did it would be my best friend and training partner. Massage is so crucial in heavy training and can literally prevent you from injury. This is like having a personal masseuse on hand and is great for getting into all leg muscles.
You can run in compression socks to boost performance, but I also see huge benefit in wearing them for recovery. I’m not going to get into the science, but here’s a really good article on how it all works.
There are so many different compression socks out there so I’m just going to share my absolute favorite. They’re a pain in the neck to get on, but once you do all of your life problems seem to melt away. I’ve tried so many different brands, but I always come back to these because they are thicker, but somehow still more comfortable than anything I’ve tried. I always feel so much better after wearing these for 2-6 hours.
You can get pretty creative with things lying around your house. I struggle a lot with tight calves, which spreads to other issues so I either massage them out myself or use random objects if I’m away or in times of desperation.
Great for your calves. I put it under one legs and use the weight of my other leg on top to roll it out.
I also use this for my calves in the same way, but it’s also more firm so you can use it for your feet.
I use it to get the little knots out of the arches of my feet.
–Vibrating Back Massager
I’ve used the handheld little tripod massagers, but also the big plug in massagers from the 90’s are amazing too. I have seriously right calves and these work wonders on loosening them up and preventing injury.
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What do you use most often for recovery?
What are some household things I left out?
What area do you struggle most with as far as soreness?