Sunday, November 14, 2010

Essential Recovery Tools for Runners and Weight trainers (and everyone else in between)

You can probably tell that I've taken a few days off work this week, hence my unprecedented three blog posts in one week.

I thought I would share some of the tools and things that I consider essential for recovery, to prevent injury and generally help your tissue quality. These are just things I like and that have worked for me, no science or research links in this post.

Now, I should point out if you have a recent acute injury, do the sensible thing first - rest, ice, take some anti-inflammatories if you have to, load up on fish oil and anti-inflammatory foods like tumeric.

Many strength coaches have a tendency to bash endurance activities like running, citing the high injury rate. In my experience though I have managed to injure myself equally from running, weight training and falling over drunk. Before you say that I probably don't run the same volume as the average runner, I've run some pretty reasonable distances, on trail, carrying a rucksack and at night as well. Most running injuries tend to be from over use or rubbing, the classic blisters and knee problems (technical and muscle activation issues contribute). Whereas strength training injuries can be from lifting too heavy (pec tear, disc pops), lifting incorrectly and possibly too heavy (shoulder issues), overuse and incorrectly (elbow problems). I've met as many guys who weight train with injuries as I have runners, the weight training guys tend to have upper body problems, the runner lower body problems, and everyone can end up with back problems. And all these issues can be compounded in all activities by stiff muscles, trigger points and mobility issues.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the essential tools and methods to help you recover, restore and regenerate.

Foam Roller

Chances are you aren't a pro cyclist with a massage therapist on hand and you probably don't have Tom Myers on speed dial. Good manual therapy and massage really helps but we don't all have the money for this or access to a good sports massage therapist.

If you can't get massage or in between massage sessions, foam roll. Even though foam rolling is all over the internet, most commercial gyms still don't have any, or one poor crushed one in the corner. In which case, buy your own and do it at home while watching TV. And if you're feeling hardcore or don't want to spend more than you have to - buy a piece of pvc pipe. I roll my t-spine, and my adductors and ITBs, concentrate on the areas you need to.

Foam Roller

PVC Pipe, if you don't want to buy a piece of foam, and if you want a deeper massage effect


Thanks to Tiss Tanner for introducing me to the wonders of sudocrem. If you run or cycle long distances, chances are something somewhere is going to start rubbing. Enter sudocrem, apply liberally. And If you are a douche like me and manage to scrape half the skin of your C7 neck area doing behind the head jerks with the Olympic bar, sudocrem can help this is well.

A friend of mine (who's name begins with P and ends with ul) has to lube up with an industrial vat of vaseline before any running event. I wouldn't suggest using sudocrem like this, use it when you have to, to soothe areas that may have undergone excessive chaffing. If you are using sudocrem on a daily basis you've got issues I can't help you with.

Miracle cream of the gods, this stuff is like ambrosia (not the rice pudding or custard, the food of the ancient Greek gods) to ultrarunners. Can also be used for napkin rash apparently


I bought my theracane about 5 years ago after reading The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. Good to target those hard to reach trigger points on your back, it's a good hurt. Again, do it while watching TV. I need to use my theracane more. Also, you can pretend you're Jackie Chan with it when no one is looking.

Theracane: for those hard to reach trigger points and for practicing Jackie Chan moves with

Two Tennis Balls taped together and a bouncy ball

If you don't want to buy a theracane, tape to tennis balls together and roll either side of your t-spine to get a more targeted effect than the foam roller will give. (Yes, I taped the tennis balls together with hazard tape - deal with it). Also, a hard rubber ball or bouncy ball will let you target areas more in the back, glutes and especially on the plantar fascia - on the foot.

Yes, that is two tennis balls taped together with hazard tape next to a red rubber ball

Magnesium Spray

Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and apparently can be absorbed through the skin. Think I first read about this on Mike Mahlers website or facebook page, can't remember exactly.Who knows if this works or not, but it makes me feel better. Spray on before bed to help sleep and relax muscles. I also spray it directly onto injured areas. I've used the straight magnesium spray and the one in the picture which has some nice aromatherapy oils in it (that's the way I roll). It last ages unless you spray on 100 pumps a night.

Magnesium Oil spray

The Stick

I bought this at the London triathlon this year, bizarrely from a guy who had come all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. To be honest, it's expensive for what it is, but I like rolling the adductors and around the knee with it, and if you have a friendly partner they can do your upper back and traps and neck. Again, you could just use a rolling pin for free, and you don't necessarily need to own a foam roller, theracane, stick, and tennis balls - but they all help to target different areas.

The stick also happens to be exactly the right size to practice your light saber technique and pretend you're Ghost Dog. When you neighbours catch site of you through the window they are bound to think that you're awesome and not some weirdo waving a piece of plastic around.

The Stick

Ghost Dog: Practice your samurai moves with The Stick in between rolling

Dead Sea Salts/ Epsom Salts

I've tried both, I prefer the dead sea salt magic. Much like the magnesium spray, the salts are a muscle relaxant and can be absorbed through the skin. Also be warned if go to your local friendly Boots pharmacy in this country to buy Epsom salts, the conversation will go something like this

Me: Do you sell Epsom salts?
Shop Assistant: Do you know its a laxative for people with constipation?
Me: I'm not going to drink it, I want it to bath in
Shop Assistant: Why?
Me: Because I'm using an East European recovery technique
Shop Assistant: Oh, I see (unbelieving, thinking crazy fool), what size do you want?
Me: The largest one (thinking: hurry up, all those pensioners waiting for their prescription are staring at me)

Okay, I'm exaggerating to, but to avoid this conversations go and buy the dead sea salt magic instead.

You don't need to use these all the time, and especially in the warmer months you are unlikely to want to jump into a hot bath after a run. But on a cold winter day, after a hard training run, when all your muscles are aching, tight and tired, a dead sea salt bath seems to have restorative properties even if it's purely psychological and helping you relax, it's worth doing.

Nigella Lawson with a tray of drinks and snacks

Berries are good for you

Post workout recovery drink, anyone?

Ok, Nigella probably isn't going to pop 'round with a tray of drinks and snacks to help you recover, but I can but dream.

There it is. Obviously still do your warm ups, mobility exercises, dynamic stretches, corrective exercise if needed, stretches etc. But the above tools all help. Some you are only going to use when things go a bit pair shaped (hopefully you won't need to sudocrem up every day!), Some you should be doing everyday (some kind of foam roll or trigger point work if needed), some you can make part of your daily routine (magnesium spray at night).

Hopefully, these tools will help you deal with minor niggles as they arise and help prevent some major problems developing along the way

No comments:

Post a Comment