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Christmas Recovery Tool Gift Overview. Give yourself the gift of great recovery

Christmas Recovery Tool Gift Overview. Give yourself the gift of great recovery

Author: Colleen Gulick, Ph.D (ExPhys), MS, BS (BioE), EIT (ME), CSCS

Sometimes Santa needs a helping hand!

As the gift giving season approaches, we want to lend a helping hand and provide an overview of some popular fitness recovery tools.  These tools have a wide range of applications intended to help with injury prevention, circulation, and/or range of motion, making them great gifts for your workout buddies (or yourself).  Please keep in mind that, as with any piece of equipment, a recovery tool is only as effective as the person administering treatment.  So, please be sure to read a product’s instructions in order to get the maximal recovery benefits. 

As a heads up, fascia is a term that is thrown around a lot when it comes to recovery.  Since we will be mentioning it a few times in this article, we thought it might be helpful to define what fascia is before you start reading.  Fascia is the soft tissue that surrounds each muscle in the body.  When fascia becomes tight, it acts like a straight jacket for your joints, it tightens around the joint and restricts its ability to move properly.  This results in a decreased range of motion and reduced muscle strength.  In order to correct this problem we can utilize any number of myofascial release strategies (some of which we will cover below).  

 Without further ado, let’s get to the list…

  1. Foam Rollers

Foam Rollers have been around since the 1980s and are a staple at most gyms.  While the goal of foam rollers has stayed consistent since their inception, the design of these devices has certainly evolved over time.  The goal of a foam roller is to affect myofascial tissues and ultimately increase range of motion.  One of the reasons that these products have been around for so long is that, for most people, they work. Foam rolling has a large positive effect on range of motion with little to no down side.  Rolling does not typically impair muscle strength, jump height, sprint time, or endurance performance. The rollers themselves have a wide range in price and functionality.  The traditional roller can be purchased for as little as $15 (which makes it a good choice for a secret Santa gift with a price limit).  If you like bells and whistles, there are rollers with multiple vibration settings that boast a significant increase in range of motion (up to 40% greater as compared to a traditional roller).  These added benefits come with a price tag over $100.  If you are looking for an option that strikes a balance between the traditional and the high-tech, there are plenty of options with a double-digit cost to choose from. 

Foam Roller

  1. Massage Gun

Massage guns have become the latest shiny new toy of recovery tools.  They are intended to increase range of motion and reduce perceived muscle soreness without a negative impact on muscle activation.  In this way they work like a high-powered vibrating foam roller.  The main difference between massage guns and vibrating foam rollers is the specificity.  Massage guns pinpoint a very specific area, which can be good and bad.  They can be helpful for athletes with a lot of muscle mass and sufficient tissue density to absorb the percussive forces.  In this way, the massage gun can effectively reach deep tissue.  However, the massage gun might be too much to handle for people who are just starting their fitness journey without much muscle development.  These individuals haven’t built up enough tissue density (yet) to absorb the force output and can find the massage gun uncomfortable or painful.  Massage guns usually have a much higher price point than foam rollers and can reach up to $500.  If you are looking for a flashy gift for an elite athlete then you may want to consider a massage gun.  If you are looking for a lower price point or have a workout novice in mind, there are better gift options.     



  1. Cupping

Myofascial cupping has been used for centuries, but received significant media attention during the 2016 Olympic Games.  This myofascial release strategy works by creating a vacuum and drawing the skin and tissue inside of the cup.  The cup lifts up the underlying fascia and the movement of the cup gliding over the skin can help to reduce fascial adhesions (when layers of soft tissue stick together and impair movement) and trigger points.  This recovery treatment is a personal favorite of mine that I have found to be not only effective, but also portable.  With a low price point (you can buy an entire set for $45) and compact size, it makes a great stocking stuffer for the holidays.     

  1. VibraCool

We all have that one friend that constantly seems to be injured.  Whether it’s an old pickleball injury or the usual aches and pains, VibraCool is a great gift.  This compact device uses specific high-speed vibration frequencies (and an included ice pack) to treat pain.  VibraCool has over 50 clinical trials to support its efficacy and is FDA cleared for pain relief.  It’s a non-pharmaceutical way to treat pain.  The price point is around $90 and is small enough to fit in a stocking (or gym bag).

Vibra Cool

  1. Pressure Positive Backnobber II-

This recovery tool is for all of the individuals that spend hours hunched over a computer or tend to have your back/shoulders knot up when you are experiencing stress.  Stress and poor posture can result in some nasty trigger points in some hard-to-reach places in your back.  One of the strategies to trigger point treatment is pressure on the trigger point itself.  But when the trigger point is between your shoulder blades or the middle of your back, you can’t always get to the right spot to press on it.  The Backnobber II is an “S'' shaped device that can help you reach those tricky spots.  You will feel it working within seconds as the trigger point seems to disintegrate beneath the ball of the Backnobber. I have been carrying one in my suitcase for years (it can be broken down into two pieces for travel) and have another one next to the couch at home.  It has a price tag less than $30 and two color options.


  1. LactiGo

If you are looking for a gift that can work as both a recovery and performance enhancer then check out LactiGo.  While it’s not a tool per-se, this topical gel has menthol, carnosine and magnesium to help improve both performance and recovery.  You can apply it 45 minutes before a workout to help increase both aerobic and anaerobic capacity or between workouts to accelerate recovery.  And don’t worry, LactiGo is informed-sport certified, meaning that it underwent a rigorous quality-assurance program for sports nutrition products.  One bottle costs less than $30 and can last for 10-15 full-body applications.  



  1. Resistance Bands 

Although it may sound counterintuitive, one of the most effective ways to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness is to reintroduce the body to activity, but with a lighter load.  So, before rushing back to the gym for some heavy squats when you already feel sore, try reintroducing some light movement in the form of bodyweight or resistance band work.  There are plenty of different styles, colors, and sizes of resistance bands to choose from.  With a price tag usually less than $10, a variety pack can be an inexpensive gift for someone who is just getting back into the gym and might be sore for the next week (or two).


Resistance Bands


Whether you prefer your recovery tool to come in a small, stretchy package (like a resistance band) or a large cylindrical package (like a foam roller) we hope that you have a holiday season full of great workouts, and even better recoveries.