If you’re like me, you try to show up 15 minutes before every class to roll out and limber up. And if you’re like me, those 15 minutes aren’t nearly enough. We spend a lot of time kicking our own asses, but not nearly enough time rolling those asses out. Don’t reserve recovery for inside the box. Spend some time getting muscle work in at home, either in the morning or before bed (or both!) so your muscles are loose, supple, and ready for action.
You might know a lot of these already. At some point, someone has recommended at least one of these things to you... and that's because they work. But chances are you’re still not doing them as often as you should. We could all use a not-so-gentle reminder every now and again.
Here’s the good news: you don’t need fancy ish to keep your body WOD-ready. For every overpriced recovery tool, there’s something you can grab out of the closet to get the job done.
These are 7 essential items you need and their home hack equivalents if you’re not yet ready to invest.
1. A Foam Roller (duh).
Don’t just use these bad boys for myofascial release. Roll out the knots in your muscles before stretching. Dig into your trigger points. Lie across the roller and let your arms fall open for increased shoulder mobility. Roll your feet across it to work your under-nurtured arches. Do crunches over it to increase spinal ROM. If you don’t own one (and you should), you still have no excuse...
Hack Version: Use a pickle jar. Or if you’re also a yogi like me, break out your kombucha bottle. You’ve definitely got at least one of those two lying around. And YES, glass is a lot harder (and less comfortable) than foam, but NO I don’t want to hear your excuses. Get rolling.
2. PVC Pipe or a Dowel
It’s the all-purpose ROM apparatus. Use it for shoulder pass throughs to keep your chest nice and open. Try this one: with your right hand, hold it behind you like you’re going draw an arrow from your quiver (just go with me here) then reach across your body with your left hand and grab the lower end of the dowel. Then pull it forward and up toward your elbow to stretch your triceps. Then switch sides. While standing, put your toes on it and hinge at the waist (rag doll for you yogis) to release your calves and hamstrings. You can keep a soft bend in your knee if that creates too much tension. Hold it overhead with a snatch group and practice your overhead squat position for those AMRAPs tomorrow.
Hack Version: A mop. A Swiffer. A broom? Please tell me you at least own a broom. You’re not in college anymore. (Even if you are, dammit, go buy a broom, you dirtbag.)
3. Protein Cookies
Keep some sweet treats like protein cookies around that’ll actually help your nutritional goals so you aren’t tempted to get on Uber Eats at 4 a.m. and order midnight cheesecake. Let “today you” protect “future you” by stocking up on sweets that feel like cheating but aren’t.
Hack Version: Break a cookie dough Quest Bar into pieces and stick it in the oven. No joke, it’ll actually bake up into little protein cookies. No recipe (or excuses) required.
4. Lacrosse Ball
This gets into all those tight spots a foam roller is too unwieldy to work with. That spot where your pecs connect to your shoulders. That spot where your lats connect to your shoulders. That spot in between your shoulders. Ok, so basically, this one's for making sweet deep-tissue love to your shoulders. And your back. Along your spine. The arch of your foot. Get in there.
Hack Version: There is no hack version. This IS the hack version. Go on amazon. Lacrosse balls are like five bucks. If you’re feeling rich, buy two and duct tape them together. Boom — instant peanut. If you have to, sure, use a tennis ball. If you’re SOFT. But come on. I believe in you. www.amazon.com. Go.
5. Resistance Bands
You know these aren’t just for PT anymore. Every time resistance bands are programmed into your warm-up, you think the same thing I do: “Eff, I should be doing this every day.” Sure, you're diligent about it when recovering from an injury, but why wait until you can’t move your arms to take care of yourself. There’s not a day that goes by when you’re not sore. Protect your shoulders with external rotation exercises. Tie a knot in it, and close your bedroom door on it to anchor it, then you can do anything you’d do in class on the pull-up bar. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, talk to your coach. If she doesn’t know what you’re talking about, find a new box.) There’s also nothing like resistance band side-steps for targeting your glute medius… which (if it’s underdeveloped) might be responsible for a lot of your hip/leg/knee pain. It’s all about balance.
Hack Version: Again, these are easy to get on amazon, but if you’re also a cyclist (or live with one), and you’ve got some extra bicycle tubes lying around, those will do in a pinch.
6. Trigger Point Massage Tool
This is for those EXTRA-SPECIAL super-personal spots that even the lacrosse ball won’t touch. Like hip-adductors… yeah… you know what I’m talking about. Or just the spots you can’t reach. Like the pesky knots UNDER your shoulder blades.
Hack Version: Squat down and use the mother-effing doorknob. Just dig in there. Who cares if people stare?
7. Cold Roller
Remember Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation? This tool hits ice and compression in one go. It’s a hard metal roller full of liquid or gel that you stick in the freezer before rolling out. Use it for all the same things you’d use a foam roller for, but focus on fascia. Connective tissue might respond better to cold while muscles are going to respond better to heat (again, if you’re unsure, chat with your coach or your doctor).
HACK VERSION: The fanciest cold rollers have a super sexy ergonomic design and a couple of sleek roller blade wheels. Guess what? YOU DO NOT NEED ROLLER BLADE WHEELS. Stick a 12 cent Trader Joe’s water bottle in the freezer and roll to your hearts content. Heck, you can even drink it afterwards. Look at you. You’re a multi-tasker.