Muhammad Ali famously said “I don’t count my sit-ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count.” And whilst this philosophy works for some, it involves a brutal level of determination that will definitely need to be balanced out by some dedicated recovery time. If you’re a bit of a wind-down novice, consider these five easy tools to soothe your aching muscles.
A foam roller is a multipurpose workout tool that hurts so good you won’t want to stop! For those of us who used to play team sports, you may have had some experience with these muscle-hugging bad boys during your training, but you might not fully know how beneficial foam rolling can be. The reason why coaches and personal trainers recommend foam rolling to preface your workouts as well as form the bulk of your wind-down, is simply because these nifty little tools are actually perfect for both! Not only is foam rolling great for warming up your muscles by stretching and lengthening them so they’re nice and flexible for your workout, they’re also built for loosening out any muscle tension by utilising your bodyweight to provide a penetratingly deep massage, effectively increasing blood flow and oxygen to your muscle tissue, speeding up your body’s natural healing process and allowing you to exercise regularly with less chances of injury.
Ice and heat packs
Anybody who’s dealt with sprains and minor injuries knows the benefits that both heat and ice packs can hold on muscle recovery, depending on what kind of injury you’ve sustained. Whilst heat is great for increasing blood flow to injured tissue, cold packs work wonders for any pain and muscle swelling you might attain from bad falls, bruising, and the like. Hybrid heat and ice packs, like natural clay packs, are great for tackling a myriad of muscle injuries, and are a must for any dedicated gym junkie.
Similar to foam rollers, using massage balls or lacrosse balls to loosen up any sore muscles is a surefire way of speeding up your recovery process. The great thing about these handheld balls is that they’re also especially perfect for your feet, neck, and lower back too, as they’re easier to control than foam rollers when it comes to these hard-to-reach areas that often require a much deeper, controlled massage. For this reason, massage balls are becoming widely used not only by athletes, but also by office workers to combat hand cramps and neck pains that might be caused by deskwork. The high portability of these little tools makes it an incredibly convenient little addition to your daily routine. Here’s a list of handy massage ball exercises that actively target your feet, neck, and spine.
There are a great variety of yoga poses that work wonders for your body in different ways. Whilst bikram and vinyasa flows are generally perfect for intense workouts that can also see you experiencing deep muscle development, yin and savasana yoga is a lot slower and generally perfect for muscle recovery, which is why they’re regularly used by fitness coaches as an integral part of their wind-down routine. Investing in your very own yoga mat will allow you to practice these poses at your own leisure and pace, allowing you to fully reap the benefits that yoga stretches can hold on muscle recovery and development.
Finally, it’s always great to invest in some quality compression wear to be worn during any strenuous or lengthy physical activity. Basically, compression garments work in a very similar fashion to your foam rollers. They’re tight but breathable, and help increase your blood flow during your workouts, making them a perfect (and passive!) tool for muscle recovery. The stretchiness of the garments is also ideal for all kinds of workouts, as it allows you to fully utilise the flexibility of your warmed up muscles. They will essentially become your second skin, so it makes sense to find a good pair of upper and lower compression garments.
All the tools on this list are cost-effective solutions to combating any muscle strain you might experience during your workouts. Utilising any of them will guarantee you bounce back faster from your more demanding workouts, as well as lower your likelihood of sustaining sports-related injuries.