Anyone who’s watched Lebron James play in recent years will know that as he approaches 35, the NBA star seems impervious to the effects of ageing and physical decline. What you might not know is that the LA Lakers point forward has a hyperbaric chamber in his house and reportedly spends over $US1.5 million a year on his body. It’s a commitment to recovery that’s helping him prolong his physical prime and remain the consensus best player in the world in his 17th year in the NBA. Chances are the stakes aren’t as high for you – you’re likely chasing deadlift or half-marathon PBs rather than championships. But if you want to achieve your goals without your body buckling under the strain, you need to make recovery a priority. Now, as a range of gadgets previously the preserve of elite athletes become available to consumers, the tools and expertise you need to train harder for longer are within your grasp.
“The knowledge is out there now,” says Hamish Charlton, founder of Sydney’s Cultivate Recovery, a boutique recuperation space that features NormaTec boots, infrared saunas, a hyperbaric chamber and spot cryotherapy unit. “People are starting to understand the importance of achieving a balance between training hard and being healthy, the yin and yang of it.”
Dedicated recovery can make a tangible difference to performance, adds Charlton, whose interest in the field stems from his background in the high-risk, high-attrition sports of CrossFit and skiing.
“At an elite level, one per cent can be the difference between winning a championship or even making a team,” he says. “Often that one per cent is recovery.”
For those of us who aren’t blessed with God-given talent and don’t have a team of trainers tracking our vital signs, the impact of recovery on performance has the potential to be even more pronounced. The problem? Foam rolling is a chore and without fortune, glory and endorsements riding on the outcome of your weekend five-a-side game, who can be bothered? Fortunately, technology is stepping in where human nature fails, making a previously tedious process easier and more appealing.
“Where in the past you might do a hard workout then put on a pair of compression pants and cycle for 45 minutes at low intensity to get the blood flow back in your legs, now you can sit on a couch in a pair of NormaTecs,” Charlton says. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a hit list of tech tools you can add to your arsenal to allow you to take a weaponised approach to your physical wellbeing. Because every man has the right to defend his body.
You want targeted relief from DOMS? Then of course you need a massage device that looks like an Uzi with a silencer (it’s that quiet). Just turn on and apply to trouble spots to blast away lactic acid and inflammation while triggering a surge of open-mouthed, closed-eyed bliss. There are three speed settings – we recommend no.2 – the third speed is strictly for sadists.
(Hyperice Hypervolt $599.95; hyperice.com.au)
Visually unremarkable, what this sucker lacks in eye-popping tech, it makes up for in bareboned versatility. Designed to mimic the hand and elbow (and in some cases personality) of a massage therapist, you can reach anywhere on your body by positioning it accordingly (you’ll need to follow online videos to get the most out of it). Great for releasing hard to reach muscles like the psoas (naturally), shoulders, hamstrings, lower back and neck.
(Pso-Rite $120; grapplingtherapy.com.au)
3. BREATHE APP APPLE WATCH
If you think of stress as the psychological equivalent of a burpee or sandhill session, it’s no wonder your mental wellbeing can be vulnerable if you don’t give it a metaphorical foam roll. Apple Watch’s Breathe app guides you through a series of deep breaths – seven breaths per minute to echo ancient yoga techniques – using a seductive green kaleidoscope that expands and contracts to indicate when you should inhale and exhale. The idea of using tech to chill can seem self-defeating but chances are you’ll be so relaxed by the end of a session, you’ll let it slide.
(Breathe is a default app on the Apple Watch, from $649; apple.com.au)
Sure, it looks a little like the flying sphere that zaps Luke Skywalker during light-sabre tuition back in A New Hope but the Hypersphere is an agent for good, while maintaining deadly precision. Unlike a foam roller or other inanimate knobbly globes you might find, the high-intensity vibration makes deep, targeted myofascial release a real buzz. The force is strong in this one.
(Hyperice Hypersphere $249.95; hyperice.com.au)
5. NORMATEC RECOVERY SYSTEM
Long used by pro athletes after heavy training sessions, these boots cocoon your legs while bombarding them with three distinct massage techniques to speed recovery: pulsing compression, gradients and distal release. “It does a really great job at venous return, which is the rate of blood flow back to the heart,” says Charlton. This boost in circulation helps shuttle more oxygen to your limbs, he adds. So deeply satisfying, not to mention passive, is the experience, it almost makes you look forward to that eye-watering ache after your next epic leg session.
6. STICK MOBILITY
This pliable metal stick takes active recovery into a new realm as you pull, bend and squeeze it through a variety of poses designed to unlock your fascia. The result? You’ll recover quicker, train harder and hit that box-jump PB sooner. As reported in last month’s issue, adding a strength component to a recovery session means you’re never just stretching. Think of it as flossing for your muscles.
(Stick Mobility $70-$140; stickmobility.com.au)
7. WHOOP STRAP
It makes sense that if you can quantify your performance you should be able to do the same with your recovery. The WHOOP Strap calculates your recuperation needs using three physiological markers: heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate (RHR) and sleep. These are then calibrated to your personal baseline, allowing you to determine whether you should really do that CrossFit session the day after you did HIIT. Hey, somebody’s got to tell you.
(Whoop Strap 3.0, from $40 per month; whoop.com)
A true double-threat – triple if you count the feel-good vibes of not reusing a plastic water bottle – the MOBOT actually makes a lot of sense. Hydration is critical during and after exertion. Foam rolling is a proven recovery technique. Now you have a tool that combines the two. The only problem we forsee? What happens when you need to drink and roll at the same time? A straw perhaps? We’ll let you figure it out.
(Big Bertha 1.2L $99.95; 4time.com.au)