- We all want quick recovery after workouts and races so we are prepared for the next.
- We all have dealt with the injury bug whether it is from overuse, lack of recovery or just bad luck.
- We all have attempted various ways of healing ourselves.

But what is “THE” correct way to recover properly and avoid injury?

Well, there is no one way, but my goal in this article is to share what I have tried and what has worked for me. I hope that you may be able to glean some worthy information from this to help you recovery more quickly from workouts, avoid future injury or even fix a current pain. This article is timely as many of you have just run the Tallahassee Marathon / Half Marathon and/or the Donna Marathon or have a full season of road races and triathlons ahead of you.

These approaches to recovery and injury prevention are based upon the day to day pains many runners and triathletes experience. However, if you have a severe injury, you should receive an opinion from a professional. I want it to be clear that I am no doctor, chiropractor or licensed health practitioner. So it is advisable to consult your physician or doctor if you have any pains which really concern you.

A combination of rolling, stretching, icing, heating and compression sportswear can go a long ways to recover, avoid injury and heal pains we have. Below is a brief overview of each one of these.

(In the coming weeks, another article titled “LOCATIONS OF COMMON PAINS AND INJURIES” will follow. It will tie to this article and discuss various muscle pains and where on the body they are experienced.)


I chose to talk about this first, because it has been the answer to abating or fixing many, if not all, of my lower body pains. And it has also helped with my lower back to some extent. Below is an image of what a typical foam roller might look like.

Click here to see a video with various techniques for using the foam roller. It can really help to work out tightness and sore spots in the muscles. You may be close to tears when you first start using the foam roller. Some people are tighter than others. But it will get easier with time as long as you use it consistently. I typically do thirty (30) reps on each roller exercise. Rolling forward and then back counts as two reps. When you find a really sore spot, it is good to concentrate extra rolling on that area.

As soon as I started using the foam roller I saw reduced pains in many areas including my peronius brevis tendons, IT Band, gluteus maximus (buttocks), quads/hammies and calves. I was very consistent and used it just before going to bed every night. I also mixed in a lot of dynamic stretching, which I will talk about in a bit. I learned the real benefits of rolling when I was training for my second Ironman. Stretching was only doing so much, and I had already received three expensive cortisone shots in my foot. The shots reduced swelling temporarily, but the pain came back after four months or so. It was hiding a problem, not fixing it. My peronius brevis tendon in both of my feet was killing me. The pain was primarily on the outside of my foot but would sometimes carry up my lower leg a bit. But once I started using the foam roller every night, the pain literally faded away.

Many also say that orthotics can help heal foot pains. But this can be an expensive option when compared to a $15 to $20 investment in a foam roller. If rolling doesn’t do the trick, you can always go to orthotics or cortisone shots knowing you tried a cheaper option first.

And a key point to hammer home – buying a foam roller and setting it over in the corner to collect dust doesn’t count as using it. Consistency is everything!


Another form of rolling can be achieved through the use of a rolling stick. It is different from the foam roller in that it is much thinner (maybe 1” diameter) and has handles on the end to hold and really dig into the muscle you are working. This video gives a great overview of using the stick. Below is what a typical rolling stick might look like.


Stretching can provide many benefits. As I’ve gotten older, my muscles have recovered more and more slowly, so I’ve increasingly seen the benefits of stretching. We can think of our muscles as rubber bands which start out flexible and able to bounce back to their normal shape. As they get older, they don’t rebound as quickly and can tear more easily.

Many people stretch before and after their workouts. Others prefer to stretch only after. Some don’t even believe in stretching. I must say I like to stretch before and after.

There are a number of different types of stretching. Click here for a list of the various types. The two approaches I’ve used are static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is basically stretching the body to a point and holding that position while remaining still. Dynamic stretching is one with movement. This can be very beneficial as a form of warming up for a workout. Click here to see a video with a number of dynamic warm up techniques. Some may be more based on explosion sports such as basketball, but they are all still good. Another nice video explanation of dynamic warm-ups can be seen here.

I’ve seen results from both static and dynamic. Some say that static stretching can be damaging to the muscles. However, I’ve had good results from using a combination of both static and dynamic.


Icing can provide great benefits – the key result being reduced swelling. You often hear of icing in the context of injury recovery. The common term is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). But it works great for every day recovery. I never ice more than 20 minutes at a time. It is best to ice after workouts. Other benefits I’ve heard include flushing out lactic acid buildup from the muscle tissues and slowing metabolism back to normality. Icing prior to workouts is counter to what you do first in a workout – warm up. But after workouts or races, icing provides great benefits. It can be as simple as wrapping a bag of ice around your sore spot. Or you can take it to the level of filling a tub with water and dumping ice into it. This is what many pros will do for quick recovery. No, don’t wear your wetsuit when you do this.

On a side note, I’ve found the use of ice to be monstrously beneficial in hot races. By that, I mean that volunteers occasionally hand out cups of ice or ice water sponges in hot, long distance races. Dumping that into my shirt, hat or even shorts at times kept me from overheating and was the difference in crossing the line or not. But that is for use in the race, not before.


Heating can loosen the muscles in preparation for exercise. This can especially be helpful on cold days where tight muscles could lead to pulls or tears. I don’t often use heat, but have heard from many that it works well. Many people will simply fill a cloth or sock full of rice (uncooked!), tie it off so it doesn't spill out and throw it in the microwave until nice and warm. Holding that to the muscles feels good and may loosen them up a bit.

There are various arguments on whether or not to use heat after workouts. Many advocate the mixing of cold and warm treatment. So you might ice your leg and then take a warm shower or bath and ice again afterwards. It seems pretty consistent, though, that most say not to immediately heat your muscles after a tough workout or race. It supposedly slows recovery by a large amount.

As much as you can use the above techniques to stave off pains and injury, they can still occur. I mentioned the fixes first since that is the main point of this article. Now I want to discuss the pains and injuries which you might deal with.


These have become quite popular with the running and triathlon community in recent years. There is a range of garments to provide compression including socks, calf sleeves, full tights, t-shirts and even thigh sleeves. The reasoning behind compression wear is based upon blood circulation. For years, the use of compression stockings has been in the medical field to assist those with blood circulation problems. They helped my grandmother who had diabetes.

There are various pressure gradients and sizes for compression wear. It is very important to purchase the correct size of compression wear to avoid it either being 1) too tight and cutting blood flow or 2) too loose and not providing the needed pressure to encourage circulation.

I myself have used the compression calf sleeves. I’ve raced a full Ironman wearing them. I’ve also worn them after hard workouts or races for recovery. I only wore them for active recovery. By active recovery, that is when I was on a recovery walk, jog or spin. I don’t wear them while sleeping or sitting still.

To learn more on compression sportswear, you can click here.

Please check back with us in a month or so to see our upcoming article titled “LOCATIONS OF COMMON PAINS AND INJURIES”. Until then - happy training and racing!


  1. Thanks for this article, Sandy. I am paying close attention to it to get through this down time. Keith

  2. Thanks for the article. I'm going to use these options to assist in my recovery! ~Leisa