Being Rest and Recovery month, we thought we’d go through 6 recovery methods we’ve tried (and some we still do) and rate them by how expensive they are.


Like most people, we spend most money on training, the training gear and races and only then do we even think about recovery and its costs.


Some of these recovery methods are practically free, some worth the cost because you reuse them enough times and others are a bit indulgent and  used only when needed or for a reward. There is however, a recovery method for everyone no matter how much you want to spend (massages) or how much effort (foam rolling) you want to put in.


1. Ice Baths


You’ve probably seen professional athletes post pictures of themselves submerged from the waist down in a bath tub filled with water and ice cubes. It’s a method favoured by bronze medallist Henri Schoeman and a feature of the recovery area at the Golden Gate Challenge.


The claim is that the ice cold water sends nutrient rich blood back to the arms and legs and help flush out lactic acid that causes post workout soreness and fatigue.


How does it work?

Sit in a bath filled with ice cubes for about 8 minutes. Alternatively you can go into a freezing pool or if you’re feeling fancy and have budget to spare, a session of Cryotherapy will work.


Does it work?

According to research an ice bath is most beneficial for quick recovery between events, but not if you want to get stronger in the long term. So use an ice bath in between stages of a stage race, or during hard workout weeks, when you know you need to recover as fast as possible.


Cost: R0

If you’re making your own ice, it’ll cost you a bit on your water bill and nothing if you have a cold pool.


2. Epsom Salt Baths


Contrary to the name, Epsom salt is not salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulphate. These minerals are easily absorbed by the skin, making an Epsom salt bath an ideal post workout recovery solution.


The popular claim is that the magnesium helps alleviate DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), relieves pain and inflammation, is a great de-stresser, helps you sleep better; and can even help alleviate sun burns.

It’s also relatively inexpensive, requires very little effort and something you can buy at most supermarkets.


How does it work?

Add 1-2 Cups of Epsom salts into your bath, relax.


Does it work?

There’s a lack of scientific evidence to back it up. I do however, find them beneficial and at worst case scenario you’ve given yourself time to unwind.


Cost: R12-R89

Depending on what you’re getting you can pay as little as R12 for a generic 100g box or as much as R49 for a brand name bath soak.


3. Foam Rollers


Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique used to aid in recovery of muscles that are prone to over activity. Fascia is the soft tissue portion of the connective tissue in the muscle that provides support and protection. The fascia can become restricted due to overuse, trauma, and inactivity. This causes inflammation and in worst cases the connective tissue can thicken, which results in pain and irritation, and additional inflammation.

Foam rolling is a way of releasing knots in muscle as well as tightness in the Fascia.


How does it works?

After a workout, spend time rolling a foam roller under each muscle group, in particular your hamstrings, ITB, calves and butt muscles. Roll until you find a tender spot and then using your body weight put pressure on that spot for 30-60 seconds to release it.


Does it work?

There’s no major research for it, but there’s not much against it either. Plus so many athletes, physiotherapist and fitness professionals can’t be wrong. Right? While painful when doing it, foam rolling does actually feel good after.


Cost R300-R4000

Depending on the type of foam roller you’re looking at between R300 all the way up to R4000. If you don’t want to spend money just yet, a rolling pin can work (but you will need someone to roll it over sore muscles) and a tennis ball is the perfect “roller” for massaging the soles of your feet.


4. Compression Gear


Compression gear is very tight clothing – most often socks, tights/leggings or shirts. They are said to hold muscles firmly in place and improve blood flow to the muscles, thereby boosting athletic performance. They are used both during exercise and races and after.


How does it work?

Wear compression gear during training or a race and your muscles won’t suffer from fatigue. Wear them after to improve recovery. They’re also great for flying as they improve blood flow to the muscles.


Does it work?

According to research, using compression gear during a workout has no affect. However, it can have an affect post recovery – most notably in easing the pain of tight and sore muscles.


Personally, I’m a fan of using compression tights and occasionally socks after tough workouts / races. That awful to the bone pain feeling you get in your legs after running long distance is relieved somewhat when wearing compression tights as it hugs you tight. And they’re perfect if you suffer from restless leg syndrome when flying.


Cost: R100-R2000

Compression Gear is costly. Socks can be anywhere from R100 – R350 and clothing can go all the way up to R2000 for a pair of tights.


5. Sport Massage


A sports massage is a really deep tissue massage. It helps with realigning the muscle fibres and connective tissue, and flushing away toxins. Regular massages can improve joint mobility and flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury during exercise. There is also the emotional benefit of personal touch.

For most it is anything but relaxing, as the therapist will put as much pressure as you can handle on tender and sore muscles.


How does it work?

Professional athletes and Olympians will schedule weekly appointments, but they add up for most of us. So rather go before or after big events, or when you’re feeling particularly tight. They take 45-60 minutes and make sure you go to someone who knows how to do a proper sports massage.


Does it work?

Yes, you can feel immediate relief after a session and research has even pointed to massages helping with depression and anxiety. However, to see the mobility and flexibility benefits you’re going to have to go more frequently, which can become very costly


Cost: R400-R500

Between R400 and R500 a session


6. Cupping


Michael Phelps can be credited for making cupping as a recovery method mainstream during the past Olympics.


Cupping therapy works on the myofascial tissue – the layer of tissue between your muscles and your skin. It also helps bring oxygen and blood to the muscles to help them heal and can help with digestion issues, stress, asthma and painful periods.


It’s almost like a revere massage in that instead of pressure being put onto sore muscles, Cups are attached and air is pumped in, to pull the skin away from the tissue.


How does it work?

Cups are placed on your body at various pressure points. Air is sucked out which lifts the skin in the cup. Once released (after a few minutes) it leaves large and perfectly rounded purple bruises.


Does it work?

We spoke about it (and tried it) here, it’s an ancient therapy over 300 years old and does work. It does however depend on what type of cupping you go for. The more intense dry cupping sessions will work better at alleviating muscle soreness than a cupping massage which is more relaxing and a possible alternative to a sports massage.


Cost: R200-R750 per session

It depends on what type of cupping you go for and the length of the session.

What do you think?

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