In the field of recovery science, evidence supports the use of both cutting-edge gadgets and old-fashioned chestnuts. When choosing from this menu of options to develop your own personalized R&R recipe, consider not only what you have access to but also what fits into your lifestyle and sounds fun—for instance, yoga won’t calm your muscles or your mind if you feel anxious about getting on the mat.
Check out the following nine approaches to recovery, see when to use them, and discover what elite runners do to maximize the benefits.
HOW IT WORKS: Proponents say it helps push bloodflow and extra fluids from your feet and legs back to the heart, flushing out fatigue- and soreness-causing metabolic waste products.
WHEN TO USE IT: Wear while running or right afterward for up to 48 hours. Also try it the night before a race or during travel to boost circulation and avoid swelling. This is a trick used by elite athletes around the world, including our very own Wallabies, who consistently use 2XU compression during sleep, training, and travel.
HOW IT WORKS: May decrease tension, release adhesions between tissues, increase range of motion, realign muscle fibers, and prevent and treat minor soft-tissue injuries—plus, it just feels good.
WHEN TO USE IT: As needed—some runners find that regular massages or other manual therapies keep them feeling recovered, while others are treated when they feel an ache or other early warning sign of injury.
HOW IT WORKS: Ice baths, ice packs, or cryotherapy chambers may reduce pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels and mitigating inflammatory processes in the muscles.
WHEN TO USE IT: Soak for 10 to 20 minutes, within 30 minutes of a hard workout. Or, try a contrast bath that alternates cold and warm for 10 minutes each, ending on cold. A word of caution: Some experts say that if used too early in training or too often, tools that reduce inflammation might interfere with the process by which your body adapts and grows stronger. So it might be best to save the ice baths for your taper and after your race.
Electric Muscle Stimulation
HOW IT WORKS: Activates muscles passively to decrease inflammation and increase bloodflow without stressing your tendons or joints.
WHEN TO USE IT: Place on sore, fatigued, or weak muscles for 30 to 60 minutes once or twice per day, three or more days per week.
Foam Roller Self-Massage
HOW IT WORKS: May increase bloodflow, relax tension in muscles, and release painful trigger points; most travel well, too.
WHEN TO USE IT: Daily or even multiple times per day, following the instructions on the particular product.
Downtime with Friends and Family
HOW IT WORKS: Making time for non-running activities you enjoy boosts psychological recovery. Social interaction lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol—high readings can hamper recovery.
WHEN TO USE IT: Join a running group so you can decompress together—or put a date on your calendar with non-running friends when you’re really feeling the pressure of training.
HOW IT WORKS: Cross-training (cycling, swimming, strength-training) boosts bloodflow and prevents muscles and joints from stiffening up without the impact of running.
WHEN TO USE IT: Schedule an active-recovery day after a particularly long or intense run, or swap one in for an easy run on your training schedule if you’re feeling sore, fatigued, or injured.
Stretching and Yoga
HOW IT WORKS: Postrun stretching may reduce risk of hamstring and other injuries; yoga may reduce back pain, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and ease anxiety and depression.
WHEN TO USE IT: Immediately postrun, spend a few minutes stretching dynamically. Schedule yoga or more extended sessions for recovery days.
HOW IT WORKS: During sleep, your body repairs minor damage to your tissues, releases muscle-building human growth hormone, and replenishes energy stores, among other vital tasks.
WHEN TO USE IT: Most adults require between seven and nine hours (if you can go into a dark room at 3 p.m. and fall asleep instantly, you’re not getting enough).