THE IMPORTANCE OF RACE RECOVERY:
As an athlete or participant in obstacle course racing, it’s important that after you train or race hard, you also provide your body with a chance to recover. We all know rest, ice, heat, static stretching, a proper cool down, and sleep, but there are many different strategies and tools out there to help aid in your race recovery.
Our advice? Race recovery is a personal preference based upon how your body operates. A good method for one person might not be best for another since we all train, eat, and carry our tightness/stress differently. However, it can be difficult to know where to start. We’ll break down a few options here (and there are tons more out there!)
Is it good to foam roll? Yes. Is it beneficial to stretch? Yes. But, one person might need to foam roll their calves, while another only ever needs to foam roll their back/hips. If you naturally eat foods high in Vitamin C, you might not need to incorporate more into your meals… but someone else might have to for recovery if they are inclined to eat a more protein-dense diet. Make sense? Good. With that in mind, none of what we discuss below is more right over another; they’re just all great recovery options to choose from, depending on how your body operates.
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (basically a self-massage) that helps release muscle tightness — AKA knots. It should be slightly uncomfortable, but not unbearable. The goal is to release your trigger points, not see how much pain you can tolerate.
Benefits: Boost recovery, healing of muscles.
When to use: after a hard training session, after a race, daily to help with continuous muscle recovery.
Don’t: foam roll your IT band. You can do more harm than good on this one. For a list of things not to do when foam rolling, (courtesy of Shape), click here.
A rumble roller is similar to foam rolling; however, they have knots built into the roller to provide a deeper massage experience. Think of the foam roller as a Swedish massage and the rumble roller as a deep-tissue massage.
Benefits: provides a deep, targeted massage to work out knots in muscles. The pressure is more intense but can help diminish tightness and decrease muscle tension. Helps reach the deeper layers of muscle, and works well around bony/joint areas. Has the ability to meld into your body more than a regular foam roller.
When to use: briefly during your pre-workout warm-up (increases blood flow), after a good training session or race, before bed.
Don’t: roll quickly (slower is more beneficial) or spend too much time in one spot. Stay away from the IT band with this one, too.
The Stick Massage Tool is a handheld device made up of plastic and surrounded by several little spindles that individually roll as you work the Stick over your muscles. It’s about two feet in length and has handles at both ends.
Benefits: prevent muscle injuries, accelerate muscle recovery, improve strength, flexibility, and endurance, help disperse lactic acid build-up, increase your range of motion, roll knots out, relieve pain. Easily fits in most suitcases so you can travel with it!
When to use: pre-activity during your warm-up, post-activity, or when you feel stiff (perfect for when you sleep wrong and get a crick in your neck!) I received one of these to use at home for my neck and scapula tightness from my chiropractor after a red-light runner hit our car head-on, and we still use it religiously to this day. For proper usage instructions, you can click here.
Don’t: use on your shins.
Cupping was made popular in America when Michael Phelps debuted purple dots all over his back in the 2016 Olympics, but it is an ancient form of alternative medicine/treatment. Special cups are put onto your skin for a few minutes to create suction (this can be done wet or dry, with or without a flammable substance). As the suction occurs, your skin rises and turns red to expand your red blood vessels and create blood flow to the affected area(s).
Benefits: alleviation of pain and inflammation, increased blood flow and relaxation. Cupping acts as a sort of deep-tissue massage. Used by medical professionals to help treat numerous disorders and conditions.
When to use: occasionally and as-needed to create blood flow, manage pain and inflammation. Tip: can also be super helpful in post-surgery recovery in conjunction with PT if you’re having trouble getting your range of motion back (frozen shoulder, joints, etc.).
Don’t: Freak out about the spots. They’ll go away on their own after a week or so. If cupping yourself at home, don’t stick cups all over your body all at once. Don’t leave them on for longer than a few minutes at a time. It’s normal to only use a few cups at once for a few minutes. (CYA language: you should obviously consult a medical professional or therapist trained in cupping before attempting on your own and to see what’s right for yourself).
This one looks a little weird, but it’s pretty awesome once you get the hang of it. The RolFlex is a simple way to amplify pressure to help relieve overused, tight muscles.
Benefits: Helps relieve runner’s knee, kettlebell injuries, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, hiker’s recovery by promoting healthy tissue, releasing muscle tension, decreasing pain, and helping with an improved range of motion and recovery time.
When to use: as needed for the aforementioned conditions until the condition subsides, daily for tight and overused muscles.
Don’t: constrain the device to where it has trouble rolling over your affected muscles/joints. You don’t want it so tight that it is dangerously painful. Just loosen the device a notch or so if this is the case.
Let me start by saying that cannabidiol (“CBD”) is not a WADA-banned substance (because it contains no THC). Cannabimimetics (whatever those are) and Cannabinoids (cannabis, hashish, marijuana, synthetic THC) are banned. I’m not promoting the banned substances– at all. There is a large difference between CBD and products containing THC. You can read more about why I believe CBD is beneficial after I lay out the benefits, etc… You can also check the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (“WADA”) 2018 banned substance list for yourself. (Note: The USA OCR and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency follow the World Anti-Doping Code developed by WADA.)
Benefits: CBD comes in many forms: topical creams, oil drops, capsules, sprays, balms and they can help with relief of pain, tension, discomfort, reduce inflammation, healthy nerves and muscles, and more.
When to use: Recovery and prevention, pain relief, help decrease inflammation. Specific use depends on the product. We use the Mend cream or the Ease capsules anytime muscle aches, strains, or pain are present. It’s basically an “icy-hot” type of product. The Rest capsules promote calming sleep…etc.
Don’t: use the products just for the sake of using them. Do your research, and make sure you are purchasing from a reputable company. A reputable company, like Iso-Sport (a subsidiary of Isodiol), will ensure their products are THC-free and generally clearly place it on the packaging as well. Don’t purchase from “get-rich-quick” CBD pop-up companies that mass produce garbage product and slap a CBD label on it just for the heck of selling CBD.
(Important: We are not being paid to promote this particular company. We received free sample packs, but we already personally used Iso-Sport products previously. We’ve seen a noticeable difference in recovery times, quality of sleep, etc…and believe that they’re one of the best/most honest CBD companies out there.) Iso-Sport products are also endorsed by Marvin Washington (Ret. NFL).
Several athletes like Nate Diaz (MMA), Andrew Talansky (Cycling), Teofimo Lopez & Shannon Briggs (Boxing) are turning to CBD because it is non-psychoactive and contains no THC. Kathy Ireland recently also just teamed up with Isodiol as well, and it’s quickly gaining in popularity.
Note that, according to our recent research, four states still currently list CBD as illegal (Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.) The University of Miami is currently conducting a clinical study of CBD, and there are currently close to 20 clinical trials ongoing throughout the U.S. to better understand CBD from a medical aspect. People from all walks of life are turning to CBD and ditching federally-approved (and highly addictive) opioids.
I’ve been a personal believer in CBD since my grandmother underwent a mastectomy and then boldly refused chemo, radiation, or to take any of her prescribed meds; instead turning to a combo of CBD oils, turmeric, and curcumin. That was in 2015 and so far, so good. Her doctors still can’t believe it.
You can search for reputable and true products from several different brands through the number one online CBD marketplace, HerbSwift. HerbSwift works with some of the best CBD law firms in the US to ensure compliance, so that’s always a bonus. (As a sidenote, OCRRacers.com is partnered with HerbSwift as our preferred CBD shop, though we have not been compensated to promote their website in this post.)
There are many companies out there that sell electric stimulation kits, and we aren’t promoting any specific ones here. (We bought a cheap one at Walgreens that seems to do the trick, but the FDA has banned some at-home models…so again, do your research). The primary purpose of electronic stimulation is to strengthen and repair tissue: particularly muscles which have become shortened, weakened or atrophied. It can be helpful to those prone to cramping, in addition to endurance athletes to help with keeping loose muscles for their uber-difficult training sessions.
Benefits: increased circulation to affected tissue, improving muscle strength, stretching muscle tissue to help with range of motion and mobility issues, slowing down muscle atrophy, muscle fiber adaptation.
When to use: as prescribed by a doctor or Physical Therapist, in recovery, rehab, muscle training, pain relief. Helpful for relieving spasms, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, bursitis, other foot and toe issues.
Don’t: just buy an e-stim machine with zero familiarity on e-stim. Talk to medical professionals to understand how cupping will benefit you and how to use it properly for recovery/rehab. Don’t overuse it.
There are many options on the market making it easier than ever to recover quickly so you can race back-to-back days (or weekends). We obviously didn’t touch on any fuel/recovery drinks here, maybe another post…
What are your race recovery go-to’s to return quickly (and injury-free) to your next race? Let us know!
Article Sources: Shape.com, RogueFitness.com, RumbleRoller.com, TheStick.com, Iso-Sport.com, Isodiol.com, CoastalOrthoTeam.com, ProjectCBD.org, OutsideOnline.com