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How to recover from a tough workout

Forget spending hours in the gym. Your time may actually be better spent recovering.

Diverse People Running on Treadmill

Working out takes a toll on your body.

Ferran Traite / Getty Images

Listen up, all you weekend warriors, gym-goers and anyone else that is vaguely interested in working out or getting fitter. If you're still falling victim to the mindset that pain is gain, I've got news for you. Scientists are starting to discover that actively investing in post-workout recovery is just as, if not more, important than the time you spend in the gym. Fitness technology is catching onto this trend and there are many promising products that allow you to bring cutting-edge recovery techniques into your own home.

Read more: Heart-rate tracking is the secret to getting fit. Here's how to use it | 6 massage guns that cost less than the $600 Theragun

Now playing: Watch this: High-tech fitness equipment for your home

Why is recovery important?

Your muscles don't actually grow while you are working out; they grow while resting in between sessions. Exercise is essentially stress, and when you repeatedly stress your body it becomes better adapted to respond to the stimulus. 

Working out, specifically weightlifting and body weight exercises, creates micro-tears in your muscles. If you don't give them adequate time to heal, then the tears grow and your muscles feel inflamed, swollen and exhausted. Not allowing yourself adequate recovery time can lead to decreased performance and even overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome, or OTS, is ugly. It compromises your immune system, makes you feel exhausted and causes chronic joint and muscle pain.

Recovery is super important in the workout process. Not only does it help you avoid all of those negative side effects, but when those micro-tears heal, your muscles grow.


Overtraining, or under recovering, negatively impacts your performance.

Getty Images

If you're more into cardio, this still applies. Aerobic exercise, especially running, follows the same progressive overload principle as weightlifting. This is a fancy way of saying that the training programs are also designed to pile an increasing workload onto your body. Then, you recover, and your body adapts to better respond to that stress.

The specific adaptations depend on what specific exercise you do, but in layman's lingo we generally know the adaptation effect as getting "into better shape." For example, if you run a lot, cycle or do another aerobic activity, your VO2 max increases. Essentially, this means that your body is able to use more oxygen while working out, which boosts endurance. 

VO2 max

If you lift weights or do body weight exercise, the main adaptation is called muscle hypertrophy and increases the size of your muscles to make you stronger. The list of physical changes your body makes after working out is endless, but the point is that they all take time and rest to occur. Ergo, if you don't give yourself time to recover, you won't get as fit.

When athletes (and yes, you) are able to recover quickly, they can hit the next workout with their full ability and maximize performance. If you don't take enough rest after each session, you won't give your body enough time to reap the full effects of your exercise and may even fall victim to overtraining


If you enhance your recovery, your body will adapt better to the stress you're putting yourself through and you may even get fitter for the same workout intensity and frequency.

Simple foam rollers are also an effective tool.

Getty Images

Why high-tech recovery?

While old-school recovery techniques, like getting enough sleep or eating more protein are tried and true, high-tech equipment will up your game and get you ready to hop back in the gym in record time.

The tools listed below will aid your efforts in a wide variety of ways, including everything from allowing you to perform fancy massage techniques on sore muscles to transforming body heat into radiation that literally helps your cells grow faster. Plus, who doesn't want more fancy toys to help their fitness pursuits?

These devices are all tools that you can use at home, so forget the days of expensive spa treatments and start recovering from the comfort of your couch. 



I tried a prototype, and the compression felt gentle and relaxing.

Angela Lang/CNET

Spryng's soon to be available calf compression device works by helping get rid of that swelling that makes your legs feel sore, increasing blood flow to your muscles and helping them heal faster. Plus, the gentle squeeze feels nice after a long day on your feet.

See Spryng on the web


HyperIce Fitness Roller

The Vyper has three different speeds of high-intensity vibration.

HyperIce vibrating foam roller combines a massaging technique with HyperIce's for a two-in-one punch to your sore muscles. Both vibration therapy (aka foam rolling) and vibration therapy help loosen tight muscles, providing relief from soreness and improving blood flow. 

myofascial release

$188 on Amazon


UnderArmour Athlete Recovery Sleepwear

This sleepwear reflects your body heat back as infrared radiation to aim in workout recovery.


UnderArmour's sleepwear has technology that absorbs the heat your body emits and reflects it back as far infrared radiation that encourages cell regrowth. Cell regeneration is a key part of muscle growth, because when the muscle repairs itself to grow stronger it needs new tissue and more cells. While the technology feels straight out of a movie, the research suggests it is legit. And if Tom Brady's in, I'm in. 

See UnderArmour on the web



The wrap can be thrown in the freezer or microwave.


See ThermX on the web


The Wave Tool

The Wave Tool can be used on sore wrists after a long day on the keyboard.

Wave Tools

$50 on Amazon


View this post on Instagram on

Jul 11, 2019 at 12:04pm PDT uses percussive technology to increase blood flow and loosen sore muscles. It's pricey, but professional athletes like NBA superstar Theragun swear by it. This rather aggressive-looking tool is like a massage on steroids, offering intense vibrations meant to give your muscles a deep tissue massage.

Kyrie Irving

$600 at Theragun


View this post on Instagram on

May 24, 2019 at 11:51am PDT

See NormaTec on the webAn earlier version of this story misstated NormaTec as increasing pain threshold. It lessens pain sensitivity.

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