With ever-shrinking space for carry-on luggage, it can be hard to find enough room for athletic shoes and workout clothes, let alone additional gear. But it’s worth it to make room for certain items that can help your body recover from a tough workout.
Here are six items worth squeezing in your bag:
The one piece of gear nearly every athlete and recovery expert recommends is a foam roller. Made of a dense foam, a roller stretches out and loosens the connective tissue between joints, and works out knots and kinks in your muscles.
“I have a love/hate relationship with my foam roller, because of my muscle density and the amount of work it takes just to hit the [right spots],” said professional downhill mountain biker Amanda Batty. “But it’s so worth it — 45 minutes with the foam roller is much preferable to not being able to walk.”
Don’t have room for a large foam roller in your bag? No problem. Every EVEN Hotels room comes with a foam roller (and yoga mat, exercise ball, yoga block, and resistance bands) so you can get the stretch you need.
Ice Packs, Muscle Balm
Even the best downhill racers crash often, and if Batty feels like she’s actually injured herself, she skips the foam roller and goes straight to the ice packs and muscle balm.
“A good ice pack is an athlete’s best friend,” Batty said. The best packs are the ones that can be heated or cooled, so they’re really versatile and perfect for any recovery.
Medical experts have long debated the benefits of muscle balms, with many believing that the cooling heat sensation offers little more than a placebo. However, many athletes swear by them. Best of all, if you’re strapped for suitcase space, every drugstore chain carries it.
For many athletes, there’s nothing quite like a massage to recover from an intense workout. “Massage helps delayed onset muscle soreness by increasing the circulation to the area as well as working on lengthening the muscle fibers that you just stressed in your workout, allowing those tiny tears to start rebuilding easier and quicker,” said Indianapolis-based massage therapist Danielle Fry.
To find a qualified massage therapist on the road, search for credentials, such as a state certification or license, as well as the initials CMT (certified massage therapist) or LMT (licensed massage therapist) after their name. Try to find reviews of the therapist on a site or ask the staff at the front desk for recommendations.
If you know you’re going to be doing an intense workout or event, be sure to book the therapist in advance; the best massage therapists rarely have day-of availability.
Ice baths are a staple of many an athlete’s recovery, making this one of the few recovery techniques that might be easier on the road than at home. After all, how many homes have commercial ice makers on every floor? Immersing yourself in a tub filled with ice-cold water helps reduce lactic-acid, which saps your muscle strength and causes that achy-burning sensation, as well as any additional swelling and inflammation.
For an added benefit, try contrast therapy — switching from cold to hot water and back to cold. For best results, keep the hot water between 99 and 109 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cold between 54-59 degrees Fahrenheit, and alternating for about 15 minutes. Researchers say contrast therapy doesn’t shut down your muscles like bathing in only cold water, making it a useful technique for anyone doing multiple training sessions in a day.
Do a quick search of nearby athletic studios or spas that this service. Or again, don’t be shy to ask the front desk staff to help you narrow some options.
Staying hydrated during a workout or long plane ride is an easy way to keep your body in balance. “Muscle tissue is 75 percent water, so dehydration directly influences muscle function and hinders proper recovery,” said Matthew Harber, the director of Clinical Exercise Physiology Lab and the Adult Physical Fitness Program at Ball State University.
While it might be tempting to go for one last long run before your evening flight, you might want to relax and hydrate on a travel day, because exercise can reduce your immune function. If you must be active, do a light core workout, which will help your spine and the surrounding muscles and joints when sitting much of the day.
A tough steel water bottles that keep water perfectly chilled and can easily withstand the rigors of travel. Don’t have one? Don’t worry. There is an EVEN Hotels water bottle in every room for you to keep – it’s the perfect size for you take on a run and a great souvenir to keep you hydrated on the way home.