Recovery Tools and Trends: Are They Worth It?
In the world of constant change, development, and trends, we are so often stuck in a state of wanting the next best thing in order to create the next life hack. But it’s a bit of a double edged sword; it’s great to be able to have the latest and most up to date information at the tip of our fingers, but it can also be overwhelming, confusing, and exhausting. It’s hard to know what’s legit and what’s not. The fitness industry is no different. With a lot of influence across social media, podcasts, and marketing, it can be tough to navigate. This article is designed to bring a few recovery trends to light and if they’re worth your time and effort.
Fitness Wearables / Trackers
Whoop, Oura Ring, and Apple Watches all provide data to the wearer about their health. Metrics such as sleep, blood O2 levels, body temperature, physical exertion, recovery, stress, heart rate, and women’s health are all captured across these devices. Never before have we had this information at our fingertips to help make more informed decisions about our recovery and put numbers to the way we feel. Incredibly useful for the general population, and possibly crucial for those looking for every advantage to help move the needle. A couple things to be cautious when considering wearables: the technology is newer and the way our metrics are being measured is still improving. There is debate on the algorithms being used and the methods of measuring and while certainly not perfect, the accuracy will continue to improve. Secondly, performance can be driven one way or another based on this suggested data. You may feel like you slept great and can exert a high level in your workout, but the data may indicate poor sleep and recovery. This can then negatively change the way you actually feel and thus inhibit your decision making for the day. So because the power of suggestion from the data may in fact negatively impact your daily decision making, it’s imperative you stay in tune with your body and are able to have discernment about the data you’re wearing.
Soft Tissue Treatments
Massage Therapy, Foam Rollers, Theraguns, Deep Tissue work. As most of you know, as a former member of the Airrosti team, this is near and dear to my heart. I have no doubt that, if done correctly, soft tissue work can positively change your life and get you out of some debilitating pain. Loosening up the tissue allows you to move more freely and reduce or eliminate the pain the brain recognizes in that area. In order for it to be most effective, it needs to be specific to the pain, injury, or tightness and specific to the amount of pressure. While the Theragun may be considered the gold standard for percussion tools, a lot of other cheaper options are out on the market. Cheaper often means lesser quality and these guns may not have the ability to meet specifics of pressure or location on the body. You’re usually looking for uncomfortable pressure applied very precisely. Luckily, soft tissue work is becoming more common across practitioners, sports therapists, and massage therapists and, if you find the right provider, can be very useful. Foam rollers can also prove to be beneficial but require more consistent use as pressure and specificity are less.
Maybe the hottest trend in the fitness market right now is cold exposure. Methods such as ice baths or cold plunges have gained a lot of traction across social media with companies selling tubs ranging from ~$100 to upwards of thousands of dollars. If done correctly, deliberate cold exposure can positively affect brain and body health. Benefits include increased energy, focus, and mood from the increased release of epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. And depending on your specific recovery needs, cold exposure can also be beneficial for muscle soreness and perceived recovery. Check out this article from Dr. Andrew Huberman for a deeper dive into the protocols and benefits of cold exposure. Similarly to ice baths, Cryotherapy is another form of cold therapy that has gained popularity over the years. With similar benefits it can offer another option for those looking for cold exposure benefits. Like the cold tubs above, cost is another factor with access to cryotherapy chambers coming from a monthly membership of $100+ or a per use cost of ~$20+. So with this particular method, it just boils down to what you can reasonably afford, or what works for your lifestyle. If nothing else, you could start with cold showers and see how you feel!
Bottom line: is it worth it?
While a definitive answer on if recovery trends are worth it is always ideal, the reality of it is there’s a bit of gray zone. For one, go to market strategies are faster than the research can keep up with. Companies start, products launch, and selling is desired. Research doesn’t always keep up with the constant push for the next version or product and thus, early generation products may not always live up the the promised hype.
Secondly, every person is different. While we are all humans, every human body is different. There are so many variables from sleep, nutrition, workout intensity, stress levels, living geography, and dozens of other factors, that no two people are going to respond the same way.
And lastly, there’s the idea of value. What do you find valuable? What we value in terms of health, fitness, and in life varies across people and across periods in our lives. Is the recovery trend you’re make you feel better and provide enough value to justify the cost? For some, the fitness wearable is worth the monthly cost to have hard data. It moves the needle enough to justify the cost. For others, the occasional Cryo session or deep tissue massage is exactly what their body needs, but isn’t something they justify a consistent monthly expense on.
Bottom line: be weary of anything that promises any significant or immediate gain with very few uses and a high dollar amount. When in doubt, ask one of your coaches for their advice. There’s a chance one of us has dabbled in it or has a deeper knowledge of it.