Buying Guide
By Austin Parker
on 11.7.13

If you think that your performance on race day is only tied to your best efforts on the track or your bike during training, you’re overlooking the most important part of your training cycle: recovery. By spending all day focusing on how you’re going to break your body down during your next CrossFit binge and not on how you’re going to rebuild and progress, you’re already two steps behind your competitors. When you’re ready to train like a pro and work through bigger gains and faster split times, the right recovery regimen from stretching and ice to active muscle stimulation will help more than any extra sets in the squat rack will. Read on for the best recovery products to step up your game.

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110% Clutch Tights

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Best Recovery on the Go: It’s no secret that the best strategy to recover after a big race or brutal workout involves ice and compression. You don’t always have access to a full ice bath (even when you do, no one likes sitting in ice water, waist-deep, chilling like a beer). When you’re on the road or fitting in workouts to and from the office, 110%’s Clutch Tights are the perfect solution. The compression is graduated from the ankles up to stimulate healthy blood flow. The secret separating these from other compression tights and sleeves is the addition of pockets for ice packets around the calves, knees, quads, hamstrings and hips. You can store the ice packs in a cooler for up to six hours, so you’re ready to recover after even the longest training session.

Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller

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Best Muscle Builder: Foam rolling is one of those recovery practices that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense at first. It’s positively excruciating to roll out sore, tired muscles, especially during your first few sessions, but you’ll quickly enjoy the extra flexibility afforded by slowly breaking down built-up scar tissue and extra fascia around your muscle fibers. The Trigger Point GRID roller separates itself from conventional rollers not only in its travel-friendly size, but also with its unique molded plastic core. Conventional open foam rollers collapse over time; the GRID maintains its shape for years longer. Its “distrodensity zones” allow you to target problem areas — trigger points — for extra attention. Paired with Trigger Point’s instructional training programs that offer exercises and stretches for every part of the body, your roller will be a tool for flexibility, recovery and total strength.

RECOVERY RITUALS

Recovery after an intense workout is almost a good luck charm for me and ensures my legs get everything they need to perform day after day on my bike and skis. First thing up is getting a good recovery drink. You can debate the merits of protein balances, complex carbs, and supplements, but I just go purely on taste. Clif Shot recovery mix goes well in water, milk, and smoothies, and I don’t feel like I’m choking down too much. I follow that up with Spark Naturals Amend or Nature massage oil on tender joints to relax them. I don’t buy into a lot of the claims supplements have, but it sure beats popping 800mg of ibuprofen after every session in the gym.
-Austin Parker

My recovery routine was non-existent until I passed 39 — with three young boys, I was stealing time to work out as it was. But age caught up me, and now it’s critical to getting out of bed the door the next day. I’m a bit of a Luddite, so recovery is peanut butter and bananas or just chocolate milk — a little protein with some carbs — consumed while I stretch with a couple of mobility drills. I also push water for the next couple hours until a trip to the bathroom lets me know I’m full.
-Scott Packard

I’m authoritarian about recovery. Some of my methods are evidence-based and others are pure superstition. Most importantly, I do a 20-minute yoga routine after every workout, which stretches out all of the muscles I use for triathlon and keeps me in tune with aches and pains. The other thing is a protein shake. I used to use whey protein, but after binging on supplements while training for the Vermont 50 I’ve been leaning more heavily on natural sources (like Greek yogurt) of nutrition.
-Jeremy Berger

Compex Performance Stimulator

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Best High-Tech Recovery Option: This isn’t your typical shock therapy. Using low currents to target both fast- and slow-twitch muscles, the Performance Stimulator from Compex brings a tool previously only used by professional physical therapists and athletic trainers home to you. Varying levels of voltage can be used to build up strength and endurance by forcing muscles to contract at given intervals, which is especially helpful in recovering from previous injuries. The Active Recovery program is more applicable for everyday use, though: a very low current doesn’t force the targeted muscles to contract completely, allowing lactic acid to dissipate more quickly and increasing blood flow and leading to a quicker recovery whether you’re ramping up the mileage towards your next ultramarathon or simply looking for an edge going into a grueling regimen of two-a-day cardio and strength sessions.

Injinji Compression 2.0 OTC Socks

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Best Everyday Recovery: We know what you’re thinking, and no, Injinji toe socks are not simply a gimmick. Their toe-fit compression works with your natural circulation patterns to keep blood flowing to vital muscles, even when you’re just spending the day sitting at your desk. The five-toe design has unmatched blister protection, meaning these socks are equally functional during your long mileage workouts as they are when you’re sipping a protein shake or getting a post-race massage. Over-the-calf design and graduated compression are both nice comfort touches that will have you reaching for a pair even on your off days.

Dr. Cool Recovery-On-The-Go Wraps

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Best for Active Recovery: Sometimes you don’t have an extra day or two of recovery time to shake off muscle soreness or general aches and pains. Whether you’re chasing multi-day races like the Ultimate Mountain Challenge or just dealing with a hectic work and gym schedule, the new wraps from Dr. Cool are designed to provide compression and ice during any strenuous activity; just wet the wrap, then roll and freeze it and apply before the starter’s gun. By removing the need for ice and with sizes for everything from ankles to shoulders, these wraps are an excellent hybrid between a conventional athletic wrap and full blown recovery ice pack.