Recovery—aka what you do to help the body and mind manage the strain of physical activity and stress—isn’t a new concept. Those flimsy white foam rollers have been floating around physical therapy offices for decades. Believe it or not, massage has roots as far back as Ancient Egypt with the belief that hieroglyphics showed individuals massaging one another. The oldest documentation of people practicing meditation dates back to 5,000 to 3,500 BCE India. Despite its extensive history, recovery has largely remained a fringe practice. However, over the past decade, recovery in its many incarnations and plethora of associated tools is almost as ubiquitous as the TRX Suspension Trainer.
It’s safe to say that recovery is hot and getting hotter. Here, we spoke to several experts who share their insights on their experiences with it and why more and more people include it in their daily fitness schedule.
A New Perspective
“Within the last 2 to 3 years, I have witnessed a different attitude toward recovery, globally,” says Susane Pata, Senior Master Trainer for TRX and TriggerPoint. “Fitness facilities are incorporating stretch and foam rolling classes into group fitness schedules—something I rarely saw 5 to 10 years ago. Fitness professionals are advocating for foam rolling to their clients and investing in their own recovery using different vibrating recovery tools. Gyms like Equinox and Crunch keep such vibrating recovery tools charging behind the desk for members to sign out for use. Fitness enthusiasts are filling up the ‘stretch’ zones in gyms in NYC (a city whose residents tend to be on the cutting edge of fitness trends) like Chelsea Piers Sports Center, Equinox and Crunch, and using foam rollers, balls, etc., to work out the kinks before and after workouts.”
It doesn’t hurt that those whose livelihood is tied to physical function—professional athletes, for example—are often seen using foam rollers and other recovery tools and regularly post to social media about the benefits of cryotherapy chambers and float tanks. Such high-profile exposure has a tendency to inspire fans and enthusiasts to adopt similar behaviors.
TRX and TriggerPoint Senior Master Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach, Brandon Wagner has witnessed first-hand the trajectory recovery has seen over the past decade.
“Since I started with TriggerPoint in 2012, I have watched the growth of recovery tools and education explode. It is one of the most discussed subjects among fitness professionals and enthusiasts alike—so much so that companies like Under Armour are dedicating a lot of research into creating products specifically designed for recovery. I'd say recovery is on the top of the list in fitness as a subject that receives the most attention.”
The What Behind the Why
Many experts believe that the increased focus on recovery is in direct response to the popularity of high-intensity training modalities. In order to perform at a higher level, the body and nervous systems require some sort of tension release to mitigate pain, injury and sympathetic overload—a condition that can result in mood swings, erratic heartbeat, sleep disturbances, delayed recovery and more. In other words, if you’re constantly firing on all cylinders, you risk physical, physiological and emotional breakdown. Using tools like the TRX Rocker, taking meditation or restorative yoga classes or soaking in a float tub can help.
Austin Martinez, MS, ATC, CSCS and director of education for Stretchlab Franchise, explains, “To understand the rise of recovery, we have to understand what ‘working out’ truly means. When you work your muscles, you drain energy storage and you break down muscle tissue.”
A beneficial and necessary process to build muscle and strength, working out can also lead to soreness, muscle tightness, mobility deficits and pain, Martinez adds. Fortunately, we’ve learned that foam rolling and other recovery practices may reduce this and help you achieve your goals faster. If you’re not sore you can perform better during workouts and you’re less likely to get hurt.
The Rise of the Recovery Gym
It’s not just product manufacturers that are taking advantage of the trend. Recovery-only facilities are starting to pop up all over. For example, Stretchlab is one such company that’s leading the recovery gym charge—the franchise-based organization has more than 70 facilities throughout the U.S. with new franchises in the works.
“What has been really interesting to me in the last couple of years is to see very expensive NYC real estate being utilized for recovery facilities,” says Pata. “This both amuses me and makes me super happy. It amuses me because who really would’ve thought of such a notion? But it makes me super happy because smart people are acknowledging—and investing in—the smart and most basic fitness principles that are essential to reap the rewards of workouts: recovery.”
Recovery Goes High Tech
It’s one thing to have a foam roller; it’s a whole other thing to know what parts of the body need the foam roller’s attention to maximize the recovery process, says Chris Nentarz, PT, owner of Move Well Physical Therapy and TRX Master Trainer. But with a little help from a high-tech platform like TRX MAPS—a system that instantly analyzes structural imbalances—users can take the guesswork out of which parts of the body are tight and require tension release.
“MAPS allows us to determine which recovery techniques to use and which tissues to direct that at,” he says. “It also allows us to see how a client or athlete responds to a strategy or technique. It is not uncommon to find that what we think works, may not.”
He adds that oftentimes, the average exerciser doesn’t fully understand recovery and so support from tools like TRX MAPS makes the process a lot easier and provides everyone with his or her own unique approach.
“Individualized solutions are always best,” says Nentarz.
Martinez explains that TRX MAPS is integral to the process at Stretchlab.
He explains, “After someone is checked in, the Flexologist takes them to the MAPS machine and runs them through a scan. Once results populate, the Flexologist discusses the focus of the session based on the client's goals and MAPS results. Then they go straight to the bench for the stretch session.”
From there, Stretchlab clients are tracked via MAPS on a monthly basis to determine progress.
“MAPS helps us educate our members on their body (visually) and how we can obtain results through assisted stretching,” Martinez states.
Recovery Is Here to Stay
According to our experts, If you haven’t tapped into the recovery trend, you’re missing out on its many benefits and the success you can see as a fitness professional by incorporating it into your every day sessions.
Bottom line? As fitness professionals, we understand that recovery tools, education and programming can help our communities feel and move better. When people feel and move better, they want to stay that way and are more likely to keep up with their workouts and stay focused on their fitness goals.