We Tried A Bunch Of Recovery Tech To See Which Work Best | Men's Health Magazine Australia

We Tried A Bunch Of Recovery Tech To See Which Work Best

A new industry of products wants you to believe that tech can speed up your recovery. Chris Mohr spent a month putting its claims to the test.

My final rep was a failure. As I crumpled on the bench of my home gym, I raised the Garmin Fenix 5 (1) that was strapped to my wrist and flipped through the data.

My VO2 max had gone into the purple “superior” section and, on the next screen, my recommended recovery time until my next workout had risen from one day to two.

Garmin Fenix 5

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I’d achieved my goal: to push myself hard enough to have technology bestow upon me another rest day. The idea of recovery has evolved rapidly. It used to be that, after a workout, you’d simply ice, rest and hydrate. In essence, you’d let your body take care of itself. But these days, trainers are pushing for a far more active approach.

Oura ring

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“Early in my career, I focused all of my attention on training,” says strength coach Joe DeFranco, host of the Industrial Strength Show podcast. “Now, when I get a new client, I map out recovery strategies first, because I realised that a workout is only effective if the athlete is able to adequately recover from it.”

You can credit the original Fitbit – which monitored two key recovery markers, sleep duration and quality – for raising awareness of this reality. Now, centres geared entirely for recovery have begun to pop up in Australian capitals.

cooler sleep system mattress

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The value of the recovery drinks market is expected to grow by 6.2 per cent annually from 2018- 2023, according to an industry report. And companies are marketing gadgets purported to improve rest between workouts. I was sceptical of these gizmos.

To me, they were expensive shortcuts to wellness. But as a man in my forties with two kids who lifts almost every day, plays tennis and swims, while travelling for my job and habitually overworking, I’ve begun to feel more pain.

UA sleep recovery

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I know what my body is trying to tell me, but maybe these products could help me grow stronger, sleep better and feel more energised? It was worth a shot.

So I began to incorporate more than $7000 of wellness gadgetry into my life – starting with my bedroom. It’s 8pm, and my Oura Ring (2) tells me: “Bedtime’s approaching. If you want to prepare yourself for good-quality sleep, now’s the time to start winding down your body and mind”.

UA tuned recovery glimpse glasses

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When I’m in bed, it keeps track of my body temperature, movement, breathing, deep sleep, REM sleep, heart rate and more, giving me a report on the effects of my other sleep-centric recovery tools. I adjust my Ooler Sleep System Mattress Pad (3) to 13°C. I slip into my Under Armour Recovery Sleepwear (4) and don my Under Armour Tuned Recovery Glimpse glasses (5), which block out blue light. My daughters, both now the colour of Smurfs, roll their eyes at me. I lie down on the Helix Dawn Luxe mattress(6), which feels pleasantly cool, likely due to technology that encourages air to circulate through its layers.

Helix dawn luxe mattress

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Spread over the mattress are Molecule percale sheets (7), made from the type of cooling wicking materials you might find in a workout T-shirt. A Gravity Blanket (8) locks me into place for a restful night of sleep.

It feels sort of like those weighted aprons you wear when you get a dental X-ray. Sleep-recovery products tend to fall into two camps: those that cool you down and those that power you down.

Research shows that a cool environment between 15.5°C and 19.4°C helps you fall asleep faster and achieve deeper sleep, an effect attributed to your body’s circadian rhythms. And those blue-tinted glasses are designed to protect your eyes from the blue light emitted by devices, which can disrupt a good night’s rest.

gravity blanket

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Some of the products had little to no effect. For example, the recovery pyjamas, though comfortable, felt no different from the PJs I normally wear and provided no measurable benefit. My Tuned Recovery Glimpse glasses, which turned my children into Smurfs, just felt silly. But many of these products did help my sleep.

After three weeks, my Oura reported that I had slept eight to nine hours at least six nights a week. I was less “awake” during sleeping hours, and my heart rate, normally about 52bpm when sleeping, fell to 48bpm.

Hypervolt plus

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With my new-found energy from a better night’s rest, and armed with the Garmin, I started tackling my workouts with renewed vigour. Which is how I came to own a gun.

The “percussive massage device” looks like a high-end drill, except that the bit is a hard, rubber disc that tenderises sore muscles. A 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that those who underwent five minutes of vibration therapy had significantly less muscle soreness when compared with a control group.

Theragun G3 pro

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Sure enough, after using the Hypervolt (9) on the left side of my body, it felt less sore than the right side and far less sore than it would be after my usual five to 10 minutes’ foam rolling. The Theragun G3Pro (10) is louder but holds a charge longer.

The Recoup Cryosphere (11) stays cold for up to six hours and adds ice to the benefits of massage. And the less brutal CTM Band (12) is an exercise band with soreness-soothing nodules along its length.

Recoup cryosphere

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On the days I used these, my Fenix reported that I could return to exercising faster. And my Oura told me I was moving less at night, which may have been a result of my reduced soreness. But I was also beginning to feel overburdened by the devices. All this recovery was, frankly, starting to wear on me.

CTM band

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The bottom line

These tools aren’t the last steps towards better health. They are the first. They didn’t always lead to dramatic results, but they did increase my understanding of recovery. The spectre of the Fenix’s data motivated me to work harder in the gym, and the Hypervolt pushed me to rest better for the sake of the Oura data. The more I repeated this, the stronger I grew. There’s also a downside: you can become obsessive. I found myself assessing how I felt by the data my devices presented, instead of by how I actually felt. That’s not right. Though I’m grateful that my month as a recovery lab rat helped me start the process of taking care of myself, I’m sure I can take it from here.

Our pick of products dedicated to giving your healing a hand:

1. Garmun Fenux 5

2. Oura ring

3. OOLER SLEEP system mattress pad

4. UA recovery SLEEPWEAR

5. UA tuned recovery glimpse glasses

6. HELIX dawn luxe mattress

7. Molecule sheets

8. Gravity blanket

9. Hypervolt plus

10. Theragun G3Pro

11. Recoup cryosphere

12. CTM band

By Mens Health Staff

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