In December of 2022, I finished my first 50 Mile ultramarathon. I successfully went from never running over a 5k to finishing a 50 miler in a 18 month timespan.
From race day fueling, to Zone 2 training, to running recovery tools..These 18 months were practically a MBA in endurance training.
One of the largest challenges I had was ramping to ultramarathon distances without injuring myself. I skeptically listened to my Ultra coach and conservatively ramped by training routine by just 10% mileage per week.
I also learned that regular focus on muscle recovery was just as critical for me as the actual mileage I was putting in on the trails. The quicker I could recover, the faster I could develop and ultimately get closer to my goal of running 50 miles nonstop.
Over the course of these 18 months, I tried basically all of the recovery tools on the market. From free recovery protocols to advanced recovery tools that I purchased, I was willing to try anything within my recovery routine.
Some worked, others did nothing and were probably a scam. But I learned a lot along the way and now have a consistent recovery routine that I follow each week for all of my training from CrossFit, backpacking, and trail running.
In this article, I will highlight the 5 best running recovery tools that I use each week as part of my training recovery process.
What is Workout Recovery and How Does it Impact Runners?
Running can be super tough on your body, especially if you are pushing the boundaries and attempting to run Ultramarathon distances. That’s why it’s important to give your body time to recover after each run.
Recovery is the process of your body repairing the damage that was done during exercise, often resulting in sore muscles and muscle pain. This includes muscle repair, tissue regeneration, and the replenishment of energy stores.
Recovery is essential for preventing injuries and allowing you to improve your running performance over time.
There are a number of things you can do to help your body recover from running. These include:
- Sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for muscle repair and tissue regeneration. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Proper Nutrition: A healthy diet will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to recover from running. This also includes fueling and nutrition intra-run if you are running for >60 minutes.
- Stretching. Stretching helps to improve flexibility and range of motion. It can also help to reduce muscle soreness.
- Cross-training: Cross-training (Swimming, Biking, Yoga) is a great way to give your body a break from running while still getting some exercise. I love to go for long hikes on my non-running days.
- Rest Days: Incorporating rest days into your training plan. Rest days are essential for allowing your body to fully recover from running. I try to keep 1 day per week as a dedicated rest day without any form of exercise.
By following these tips, you can help your body recover from running and improve your running performance over time.
Here are some additional benefits of recovery from running:
- Reduced risk of injuries: When you don’t give your body enough time to recover, you’re more likely to get injured. This is because your muscles and tissues are not fully repaired, which makes them more susceptible to damage.
- Improved performance: When you’re properly recovered, you’ll be able to run faster and longer. This is because your body will be able to generate more power and endurance.
- Increased motivation: When you feel good and healthy, you’re more likely to stick with your running routine. This is because you’ll be more motivated to get out and run.
Overall, recovery is an essential part of running. By following the tips above, you can help your body recover from running and improve your running performance over time.
Here are some additional tips for recovering faster from running:
- Take a hot bath or shower. Heat can help to relax muscles and improve blood flow.
- Get a massage. A massage can help to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated is essential for muscle repair and tissue regeneration.
- Eat a balanced diet. A balanced diet will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to recover from running.
- Listen to your body. If you’re feeling pain, take a break. Pushing yourself too hard can make it harder to recover.
What are the Best Recovery Tools for Runners?
Out of all the recovery tools I tried while prepping for my first Ultramarathon, there are few that have become part of my every day routine. These have become staples after every hard workout, from running to CrossFit.
Hoka Ora 3 Recovery Slides
What are They?
Recovery shoes are a super comfortable shoe designed to help athletes recover from workouts faster. They are made of super lightweight foam material and are designed to increase blood flow in your lower body.
I’ve tried the Hoka Ora 3 and the Oofos, both of which are excellent choices and come in right at $60 bucks.
The Hoka Ora 3 are my go to pair of recovery slides. I believe they are one of the most effective recovery tools and can be used daily.
How Do I Use Them?
After each run – I simply shower and wear my Hoka Ora 3’s for the rest of the day. In terms of value, these are high compared to other recovery tools simply because I am using them for 10-12 hours per day.
They are super comfortable and something I look forward to putting on after a workout knowing they encourage blood flow and help recover tired muscles.
I highly recommend the Hoka Ora 3 and think they are one of the best running recovery tools on the market.
It’s like giving your feet a breath of fresh air (literally) after pounding the pavement or trails for miles. Simply change into the recovery slides and get on with your day.
Beam Dream Nighttime CBD Blend
Sleep hygiene and getting adequate sleep to allow your body to fully recover is by far and away one of the most effective recovery tools.
Simply prioritizing sleep by creating a healthy bedtime routine is completely free and has a massive impact on your overall life happiness, not just workout recovery.
One of the foundations of my beddtime routine is drinking Beam Dream, which is nighttime CBD sleep powder drink.
I’ve tracked my sleep for over 3 years now with Whoop and I consistently sleep better after drinking Beam Dream, so this is definitely one of the best running recovery tools on the market.
What is it?
Beam Dream is a nighttime CBD blend that is a sweet treat and comes in at just 5 calories per serving.
While there are many flavors now, the original Beam Dream tastes like a cinnamon hot cocoa drink and has 20mg of Broad Spectrum Nano CBD (THC Free). Simply pour hot water or milk into a glass with a scoop of Beam CBD and drink.
On top of CBD, Beam Dream has additional ingredients that help assist in sleep including Magnesium, L-Theanine, and Melatonin.
How Do I Use It?
I drink Beam Dream every night about 30 minutes before I want to close my eyes. I mix 1 scoop of Beam Dream with hot water, mix, and drink while watching TV or reading a book.
I’m honestly super impressed with how quickly this helps me fall asleep each night and it has quickly become a favorite recovery tool of mine. On nights when I travel and don’t have Beam Dream, I find myself wishing I brought it along with me.
Bottom Line – Beam Dream has a huge impact on my sleep and is one of the best running recovery tools that I have tried.
While it isn’t directly working your muscles like foam rolling or using massage sticks, Beam Dream improves sleep which is arguable the #1 most important recovery tool out there.
GoWod Mobility App
One of the best ways to recover from running and to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness is through proper stretching/mobility work.
I’ve struggled with mobility issues throughout my life and the consistent stress that running puts on my body has amplified this, especially when I am running longer distances.
A consistent mobility practice has been super beneficial to me and is a fantastic recovery tool for runners.
What is it?
GoWod is a mobility app that tests your range of motion and then designs custom daily mobility routines along with post run recovery sessions.
The app is completely customizable and the mobility movements chosen are based on your weaknesses or the workout you are doing for the day. You can also select what recovery tools you own (Foam Roller, Massage Gun, Lacrosse ball, etc) and GoWod will work into the recovery routine.
How Do I Use It?
I use GoWod as a long term practice to improve my mobility and also for post run recovery sessions.
Typically I will do a 12 minute mobility recovery workout after a run and then in the evening I will do a 22 personalized mobility session to improve my weaknesses for the long term.
GoWod is an excellent recovery tool for runners and all athletes alike. If you do CrossFit, it is probably the best recovery tool on the market given its ability to customize routines based on specific WODs.
I really like that GoWod can be used as a recovery tool AND a long term mobility improvement program.
Trigger Point Performance GRID Vibe Plus Vibrating Foam Roller
What is it?
The Trigger Point Performance GRID Vibe Plus is a vibrating foam roller that can be used as a warmup prior to running and also as a post run recovery tool.
Vibrating foam rollers are designed to looks and feels like most legacy foam rollers on the market, but adds an element of vibration that increases muscle stimulation.
The Trigger Point Performance GRID Vibe Plus is a foam roller that has 4 different vibrational settings and also the GRID surface of the roller which is meant to mimic the gentle massage of a massage therapist.
How Do I Use It?
I use a vibrating foam roller as part of my pre-run warmup and also during dedicated mobility sessions with GoWOD.
For runners specifically, this foam roller recovery tool is amazing for targeting your calves, feet, and achilles.
During my Ultramarathon training ramp, my calves/feet were constantly the most stressed and tired from running. I used the foam roller to proactively target this and was able to stay injury free prior to my run.
While I prefer a vibrating foam roller, I do think that any foam roller should be a staple for runners and one of the first recovery tools purchased by runners. This includes a traditional foam roller which can easily be purchased on Amazon for a lower price.
You can buy a foam roller for relatively cheap or upgrade to a more advance recovery tool like the Trigger Point, but either way I believe that foam rolling is a necessity for all runners.
Compression Boots – Air Relax AR-2.0
I took the plunge into the Compression Boot world before I even started running, but quickly found out that this is an amazing recovery tool for runners.
While I believe that recovery boots are a fantastic recovery tool for running, they are also more of a financial commitment in comparison to foam rollers, mobility apps, and other basic recovery tools like compression socks.
With that said – If you are able to afford a pair of compression boots, it will quickly become a staple in your home setup of running recovery tools.
What is it?
Compression boots are used to increase circulation, reduce muscle soreness, and decrease inflammation in the body. They promote muscle recovery and help expedite the recovery process.
The boots cover your entire legs from your feet to your upper thighs and the chambers inflate with air at random intervals to promote blood flow.
There are many different models on the market, but I recommend the Air Relax AR-2.0 which is a cheaper alternative to the Normatec boots.
How Do I Use It?
I use compression boots in the evening while winding down and as part of my evening routine. This includes while reading and watching TV.
When possible, I also like to use recovery boots on my rest days to mimic deep tissue massage. I will sit in them for an extended period of time to increase blood circulation and ensure I have a recovered body for the next training week.
Compression Boots are one of the best recover tools for all athletes and will have a great impact on runners.
These compression devices are not cheap, but they are a great way to target large muscle groups impacted by running and keeps the blood flowing to promote running recovery.
What Recovery Tools Missed the Cut?
While we just went through my 5 favorite recovery tools for runners, there are many other products that I own and use on a weekly basis.
For this article, I picked the top 5 most effective recovery tools that promote muscle recovery. I also tried to focus on specific recover tools for runners and products that are affordable.
Here are some of the other best recovery tools that did not make my top 5 cut:
- Sunlighten Sauna Solo
- Cold Plunge (DIY Instructions Here)
- Hot Tub/Epsom Salt Baths
- Massage Guns
- Lacrosse ball, Tennis ball, or golf ball
- Massage Rollers
- Muscle Stimulator
How Do I Know When I am Fully Recovered? What About Overtraining?
It’s super important to give your body time to recover after running. This is especially true for new runners.
Recovery is the process of your body repairing the damage that was done during exercise. This includes muscle repair, tissue regeneration, and the replenishment of energy stores. Recovery is essential for preventing injuries and allowing you to improve your workout performance over time.
There are a number of signs that your body is fully recovered from a workout. These include:
- Your muscles are no longer sore. Muscle soreness is a common side effect of exercise. It is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. These tears are repaired during the recovery process. Once the tears are repaired, the muscle soreness will go away.
- You can move your body freely and without pain. If you are still experiencing pain or stiffness after a workout, it is a sign that your body is not fully recovered. Give yourself more time to rest and recover before working out again.
- You have your normal energy levels back. If you are feeling tired or fatigued after a workout, it is a sign that your body is not fully recovered. Give yourself more time to rest and recover before working out again.
- You are able to perform your workouts at the same level of intensity as before. If you are finding it difficult to perform your workouts at the same level of intensity as before, it is a sign that your body is not fully recovered. Give yourself more time to rest and recover before working out again.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is a sign that you may be overtraining:
- Extreme fatigue.
- Loss of appetite.
- Increased risk of injury.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to take a break from working out and give your body time to recover. Overtraining can lead to serious health problems, so it is important to listen to your body and take care of yourself.
In Conclusion: What are the 5 best Muscle Recovery Tools for Runners in 2023?
After training for 18 months and successfully finishing a 50 mile Ultramarathon, I tried just about every recovery tool on the market.
I think the 5 best recovery tools for runners are:
- Hoka Ora 3 recovery Slides
- Beam Dream CBD Nighttime Drink
- GoWod Mobility App
- Trigger Point Performance GRID Vibe Plus Vibrating Foam Roller
- Compression Boots
For anyone looking to improve their running ability or training for a big race like a Ultramarathon, I highly recommend looking into these muscle recovery tools and making recovery a staple after a hard workout.