It’s often a killer workout that leads to lounging around on the couch (hey, you earned it). But when you can’t stop your thighs from wobbling, you’re reminded that there are probably better ideas.
If you want to wake up for tomorrow’s workout and not waddle around like a duck—or someone with a stick up their a$s—then you’re going to need at least one of these recovery tools. Some of them (foam rollers, sticks, and balls, for example) provide deep-tissue massage that helps increase blood flow, in turn speeding up recovery; others (wraps and salts) decrease inflammation to reduce post-workout soreness. Regardless of which you choose, you’re looking at better fitness results in a shorter amount of time, because when you’re not feeling sore AF, you’re ready to get after it that much sooner.
Consider this your introduction to foam rolling, a form of self-myofascial release you want to get in the habit of doing after every tough workout. Roll it over your quads, hamstrings, IT bands—basically anywhere that feels tight—and when you feel that hurts-so-good sensation, release as much bodyweight onto the roller as you can bear. The more you sink into it, the more you’ll feel it, but trust us, the relief is all kinds of worth it.($55.99; amazon.com)
Endorsed by the head trainer for the L.A. Lakers, this kinda-wacky-looking recovery tool actually works. The obvious use is for larger muscles of your lower body, but thanks to the ergonomic design and interchangeable attachments, you can target hard-to-roll spots like arms, neck, and wrists with ease.($59.95; amazon.com)
When your main objective is to pack nothing but a carry-on for that out-of-state race, the first thing to go is a foam roller. (Or, let’s be honest, it’s not even making it into the suitcase on the first try.) That’s why the Travel Stick is ideal: It takes up very little room—you can even throw it in an oversize purse or backpack—and you can customize how deep of a massage you want based on how much pressure you apply.($27.42; amazon.com)
Nearly 800 customers give this an almost perfect score on Amazon, so you know it’s gotta work. The curvy accessory is designed to get at hard-to-reach places in your neck, shoulders, and back: Hook one end over your shoulder and apply as much pressure as you can handle to those sore areas. While it does break down into two parts for easy travel, it may look like you’re trying to shank someone if you pull this thing outta your bag…so maybe save it for the hotel room.($29.95; amazon.com)
If there’s one area that doesn’t get enough love, it’s your feet—and the more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments found within them. But a little TLC can prevent a lot of injuries, so pop this little guy in the freezer before you head to work or for a long run. By the time you get back, the stainless steel spheres are ready to give your barking dogs a cold, muscle-relieving massage.($31; amazon.com)
If back issues wreak havoc on your workouts (or your life), this roller is your new go-to recovery tool. Designed to be adjustable, it can extend to target the larger muscles of your back or shrink down to work the tiny muscles along your spine. This can help improve flexibility; release tightness; and support good, upright posture. (You know, to combat all that hunching over you do at your desk all day.)($24; amazon.com)
Stretching always feels better when you have someone there to help you push a little farther, but let’s be real—how often is someone actually nearby to stretch you out? Tossing this strap into your gym bag is a better bet. It helps you move deeper into a stretch, and it even has numbers spaced across the loops so you can easily track improvements to flexibility and range of motion. Use the toe loops to address heel pain and prevent plantar fasciitis, and the big ones for hamstring, quad, and lower back movements.($16.30; amazon.com)
When reaching up (or over) to touch your toes is damn near impossible, a cotton strap can give the stretch support you need without digging into your skin. This one is extra long, so tall athletes aren’t left to deal with tight muscles solo.($12.98; amazon.com)
Ice packs are a solid part of the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevate), but more often than not they slide off and refuse to stay put. This wrap stays in place and offers compression, knocking out two steps in one.($27.26; amazon.com)
If you can’t stand the thought of an ice bath—or simply don’t ever feel the need to torture yourself—opt for a relaxing hot water soak instead. Toss in two cups of epsom salt while you’re at it (fragrant varieties offer up ~aromatherapy spa~ vibes), so the minerals can absorb into the skin, providing much-needed relief for sore muscles.($4.89; target.com)
Whether compression works during a workout is debatable, but research shows donning tight gear after may help speed up post-recovery results.Lower-leg compression, running mechanics, and economy in trained distance runners. Stickford AS, Chapman RF, Johnston JD. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 2014, Jun.;10(1):1555-0265. And while the price point is a bit high, these babies help increase blood flow and reduce muscle stiffness and swelling after a killer leg day. Worth it.($99.95; amazon.com)
Not everyone wants to alert the world that they’re wearing compression gear. These crew socks go unnoticed, but the benefits don’t. You can twist the material to help correct pronation or supination and ease plantar fasciitis pain—finally, a neutral stride that doesn’t leave you feeling weak in the knees.($25; ec3dsports.com)
It’s nice when recovery gear looks cool, but it’s even better when the design elements actually serve a purpose. The fold-over cuff on these sleeves slides over the arch of your foot to provide structural support that fights plantar fasciitis pain, the chevron ribbing helps relieve shin splints, and the pin-point compression gives targeted calf and ankle support.($39.99; amazon.com)
These medical-grade calf sleeves aren’t your average slip-on socks. With 30 mmHg in the ankle and 20 mmHg in the calf (the higher the mmHG, the tighter it feels), the graduated compression helps send de-oxygenated blood back to your heart (for a quick pick-me-up), and it may reduce calf-muscle vibrations so you feel less sore after a day of sprints.($34.99; amazon.com)