We all know that climbing is tough on the body, but what’s so funny is how few climbers are actually tough enough to deal with it on their own. Put it this way: we love to talk about our injuries—not to mention constantly touch them and rub them. We just don’t always know how to deal with them, let alone what recovery tools work best.
What injuries you currently have, how they feel when you stupidly continue to climb on them, how they are to blame for your predictably mediocre performance, and how you plan to combat those injuries by pampering yourself with expensive massages, “body work,” and ayurvedic spa treatments on your next rest day, accounts for at least 50 percent of every climbing conversation that’s ever taken place, ever.
If you have the money to spend on expensive body-work treatments, go for it. However, I think it’s even better (and cheaper) to learn how to treat yourself. And with just a few essential recovery tools, and a bit of knowledge about how to use them effectively, you will be able to do a lot more for yourself in terms of increasing your mobility, recovering from old injuries, and preventing future ones from literally popping up.
A simple wood dowel is an effective tool for releasing tension, working out knots in your back, releasing tension in your feet from your too-tight climbing shoes, and rolling out your forearms.
I got this idea from Lydia Zamorano, badass yogi and climber (and wife of one of my heroes, Sonnie Trotter.) For about $10, you can get a wood dowel, cut it to down to between 16 and 30 inches, and sand it down so the ends are smooth and splinter-free.
Check out Lydia’s excellent guide to using the wood dowel on her website.
If building your own wood stick sounds like too much work, the MobilityWOD Stick is a metal version of the same thing. Probably less likely to be eaten by your dog, too.
Who doesn’t love a good, firm set of balls? Having one or two lacrosse balls to lie on, roll on, press on, and, hell, even step on, will open up a world of pain that hurts so good.
There are a variety of ways to use lacrosse balls to release trigger points. You can pin the ball with your shoulder blade against the wall (less intense), or do the same thing by lying on top of it on the ground (more intense).
Keep a couple of balls around, play with them often, and your body will thank you. Trust.
Foam rollers are another great tool for increasing mobility in your back and legs. While high-density foam rollers are a cheap, good option, I prefer the rollers from Trigger Point. My last foam roller eventually became misshapen from too much rolling; then my dog tore it apart (why do dogs like to eat recovery tools so much?). The Trigger Point rollers are basically indestructible. I like the longer 2.0 version because I have wider shoulders, however, the smaller rollers are easier to throw in a duffel bag and travel with.
Armaid or R8 Roll Recovery
The Armaid is an awesome tool for forearm recovery. What’s great about the Armaid is that it’s really ergonomic. The saddle sits nicely on top of your thigh, and the neoprene strap keeps it in place, allowing you to saw your arm back and forth through the clamps. What’s also great about the Armaid is that there are interchangeable massage balls that target different spots.
Another great option, however, is the R8 Roll Recovery, a tool that my friend Joe Kinder introduced me to. The R8 uses roller-blading wheels under the tension of a spring to roll out muscle and ligament fibers. Although it’s a close call, I prefer the R8 to the Armaid because the R8 is under tension, which in some ways makes it easier to use, but it can also be more intense. After all, the R8 is really made for runners and legs, not arms.
But both are great. The only way you can go wrong is by not having one of these forearm torture tools.
Voodoo Floss Bands
Voodoo Floss bands are long pieces of rubber that you wrap around problematic areas—such as shoulders—to compress the joint or muscle. While wrapped up, you can then perform some basic movements, with or without the help of some active-release pressure on those problematic trigger points.
My left shoulder has been nagging me for the past four years. I just started flossing it with the red band (which gives more compression than the black band, which is less intense), and I’ve already noticed a huge increase in mobility. I’d experience some impingement while raising my arm above my head, but with some Voodoo Flossing, I’ve seriously reduced that pain while increasing my mobility. I’ve also found I get the best results using this band before climbing or exercise, rather than after.