It’s no secret that a lot of the recovery modalities used by endurance athletes are basically bullshit. But are they all bullshit? Not according to a new study on myofascial release (aka foam rolling) in cyclists.
The study was conducted by Korean researchers and involved twenty-two cyclists with iliotibial band friction syndrome as subjects. Half of these athletes performed 20 minutes of foam rolling during a two-hour rest period between a pair of 10K indoor cycling time trials while the others served as controls. Members of the foam rolling group reported less pain, had a greater range of motion, and completed the second time trial 31 seconds faster than the first, whereas the controls were 74 seconds slower in the second time trial, had a lower cadence, and reported more pain both during cycling and while performing a standard test of IT band pain. All in all, these findings provides solid evidence that foam rolling is helpful for recovery, at least in special circumstances.
By the way, the question of which recovery methods actually work and which are bullshit is not an academic one for me. I’m currently working on creating a Mind-Body Recovery Lounge in the Dream Run Camp Team House, and I’m trying to decide which types of equipment to include in it and which to exclude. On the basis of my personal athletic experience, I was already planning to stock the lounge with foam rollers when I came across the study just described, but its results give me assurance I’ve made the right call.
So, what else is going in the Mind-Body Recovery Lounge? The centerpiece is a hyperbaric chamber, which is essentially the opposite of an altitude tent. The athlete lies inside the capsule and breathes pressurized pure oxygen for thirty to sixty minutes. Research findings on the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) on recovery in athletes are contradictory, but there are enough positive findings that I felt comfortable shelling out $5,250 for a used Summit to Sea unit. Actually, that’s not quite true. It was the combination of these findings and some encouraging research on HBOT in patients with long covid (which I have) that motivated me to pull out my credit card. (I lied again—I paid by Venmo.)
The other big-ticket item I’ve chosen for the Dream Run Camp Mind-Body Recovery Lounge is a vibroacoustic therapy bed made by inHarmony. To be honest (and I promise to be honest from here on), I’d never heard of vibroacoustic therapy before I started to research recovery tools with which to stock the Lounge. The most concise description of what vibroacoustic therapy is and how it works comes straight from InHarmony’s website: “The inHarmony Sound Lounge instantly soothes your busy mind and relaxes your entire body using sound frequencies. Four tactile transducers, two amplifiers, Sennheiser HD noise reduction headphones, and concert-quality cables are used to deliver powerful sound to your ears and body, making you feel amazing!”
Despite the hefty price tag attached to the unit I bought (but haven’t received yet—I can’t wait to try it out!), I didn’t particularly care whether there existed peer-reviewed scientific research demonstrating benefits of vibroacoustic therapy for athletes or anyone else. The reason is that feeling amazing is intrinsically beneficial in ways that are hard to measure. In her book Good to Go, former professional cyclist Christine Aschwanden delved deep into the science behind many of recovery modalities and came to the conclusion that most of them don’t do anything more than help athletes relax, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Relaxation is a huge part of it,” she explained on the TrainRight podcast. “You want to be able to reduce to the extent possible the stress in your life, the stress on your body, because to your body stress is stress, whether it’s coming from your workout or something else. . . Anything that helps you relax, that’s actually doing something beneficial.”
Other items that will be available to runners in the Mind-Body Recovery Lounge include a massage table, yoga mats, compression boots, massage balls, and massage guns. I’ll let you do your own research on these modalities. My own experience with various forms of massage is that my body feels different after experiencing them both acutely and chronically, and if the body feels different, then something is different, regardless of whether that difference can be measured. Oh, and there will also be a salt lamp and an aromatherapy diffuser, because what’s a Mind-Body Recovery Lounge without a salt lamp and an aromatherapy diffuser?
By the way, I expect to be ready to receive my first guests at Dream Run Camp on or around May 1, 2023. If you’re interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.