Damage Control: The Best Recovery Tools

Don't just sit there. Get the most from your training by recovering right.

When stretching's not enough, choose one of these tools: from a simple rolling stick to a full electrical muscle stimulation system. (Pierce Martin/Flickr)
recovery tools outside fitness health gear

You have options for soothing your tired muscles after a good workout—a whole spectrum of options. On one end: Try a smartphone aid to help you pass out, since sleep is one of the best recovery tools. Or choose rollers and massage tools with smart upgrades if you need a little extra help. And for full-body training pains, pick up comprehensive systems complete with a hefty carrying case (and price tag). We've done the testing; all you need to do is know your knots and make your choice.

The Stick Sprinter

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

With the Sprinter, you control the pressure, so rolling out large muscles like quads or hamstrings takes just a swipe. And because it’s thin and only 19 inches long, it travels easy, too. $35; thestick.com 


NormaTec MVP Recovery System

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

Hook up the compression boots (not shown) to boost circulation to tired muscles. Arm and hip sleeves (from $450) complete the package. $1,750; normatecrecovery.com 


110% Double Life Shin/Calf sleeves

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

The tried-and-true rest-ice-compression-elevation (RICE) recovery protocol has never been simpler, thanks to 110%. Its compression sleeves have pockets that hold the included ice packs. Also available for knees, thighs, and arms. From $50; 110playharder.com 


Marc Pro electrical muscle stimulator

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

Electrical stimulators like the Marc Pro create small contractions that increase blood flow to sore tissue, flushing out waste and delivering more oxygen and nutrients for faster healing. Researchers aren’t yet convinced the process enhances performance, but they do think it reduces soreness. $650; marcpro.com


 

TheraBand Stretch Strap

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

Studies suggest that maintaining a normal range of motion, like being able to bend forward 90 degrees, helps prevent injuries. The Strap allows you to loosen up stiff joints with static and dynamic stretches. $27; thera-band.com 


The Orb massage ball

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

Tiny knots develop in muscles when they’re injured or overworked. Applying pressure is the best way to help them release. No time for a massage? The Orb is the perfect alternative. Roll around on one until you find a knot, then press down and leave it there for as long as you can stand it. $20; pro-tecathletics.com 


TriggerPoint Cold Roller

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

The stainless-steel Cold Roller gets deep into calves, hamstrings, quads, and shoulders, thanks to its hard, rounded design. And if you leave it in the freezer for an hour, it ices your muscles at the same time. Just be sure to wipe it down with a warm towel before you use it, or you’ll get freezer burns on top of your knots. $80; tptherapy.com


Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson app

stick sprinter recovery post-exercise gear normatec mvp recovery 110 doubl mar pro electrical muscle stimu theraband stretch strap orb massage ball triggerpoint cold roller deep sleep with andrew johnson
(Hannah McCaughey)

Lack of sleep not only hurts performance, it impairs recovery by reducing protein synthesis and increasing inflammation. Deep Sleep, a meditation app from hypnotherapist Andrew Johnson, helps quiet prerace nerves to help you pass out faster. For Android, iOS, and Windows; $3


Game Ready system

game ready system recovery tools fitness outside gear
(Game Ready)

The Game Ready uses both ice and compression simultaneously to treat injury-induced pain and swelling. More than a dozen attachments for shoulders, elbows, hips, and the lower back let you target specific body parts. $2,800, gameready.com


TriggerPoint The Grid Mini foam roller

triggerpoint grid mini foam rol recovery tools gear outside fitness
(TriggerPoint)

The size of a cantaloupe, the Mini fits easily in a backpack. Even better, it has different density zones for variable therapy;  the smaller squares feel like a firm finger-tip massage, while the bigger sections give a softer feel. $25, tptherapy.com


 

Gaiam Reversible Travel yoga mat 

gaiam reversible yoga mat recovery tools outside fitness health
(Gaiam)

At only one pound and 1.5 millimeters thick, this yoga mat packs down to the size of your wallet. The top isn't overly sticky, making it a good surface for foam rolling. Take it anywhere to set up a place for recovery exercises. $30, gaiam.com


Roll Recovery R8 roller

roll recovery r8 roller recovery tools fitness outside
(Roll Recovery)

The spring-loaded jaw-like device clamps down on sore muscles for a deep massage. Just stick a quadricep or calf inside and roll the eight Rollerblade-like wheels back and forth. The only downside: It’s nearly impossible to get a hip or glute in its grip. $119, rollrecovery.com


Peloton Prescription

Cannondale Pro Cycling veteran Ted King’s recovery secrets

  • “Getting out of your dirty clothes is kind of a mental-recovery straightaway.”
  • “Post-race I make stir-fry: heavy on the vegetables, spiced up with Sriracha; a complex carb like brown rice; and an egg on top. Prep and cooking is so easy, you’re eating within the 60-minute glycogen-restoring window.”
  • “Nap. If you sleep an extra hour every day, each week you’re sleeping an entire night more than someone who doesn’t nap.”
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