Whether you are a runner, mountain biker, backpacker, or cyclist, you can benefit from some work on yourself off the bike or the trail. All too often, we focus on improving our performance during our sport of choice without realizing that what you do outside of the sport is just as important. Here are some tools that I have found to be quite useful in my everyday recovery and overall well-being.
iFit Sleep HR ($219): Sleep plays such a huge part in our recovery and general overall health. Unlike a Fitbit or other activity tracker, the iFit Sleep HR measures way more than the amount of time you spend in bed to give you detailed analytics on the quality of your sleep. And best of all, it requires you to wear absolutely nothing on your wrist. The flat disc sensor slips underneath your mattress where unless you are Princess and the Pea, you will never know it is there.
In addition to movement, the iFit Sleep HR tracks your breathing patterns to make you aware of sleep problems, like excessive snoring or sleep apnea, that could be preventing you from a good night’s sleep. You’ll know how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up, and your total sleep time. The sensor tracks your heart rate, so you can see exactly how long you spend in each sleep cycle, including light, deep, and REM stages. I found that monitoring my average heart rate each night is a great indicator to how well I am recovering. For example, if my heart rate is much higher than average throughout the night, I am probably not ready for a super hard-hitting workout that day.
And for those of you who, like me, are not the best in the morning, the built-in smart alarm lets you set a time frame for when you want to get up, and the sensor will look for the lightest part of your sleep cycle to wake you. Even though I hate mornings, I ironically like to ride my bike early in the morning, so have been using the smart alarm to try to get out of bed earlier without wanting to kill someone.
You can also add notes each night to monitor how your sleep is affected by workouts or even what you eat and drink throughout the day.
Hit Reset by Erin Taylor ($21.95): Not until I recently started developing some major aches and pains did I give in to the importance of stretching or yoga for athletes. Because I spend a lot of time on the bike versus other sports, my body is at risk of becoming imbalanced. Organized by different areas of the body, this book gives you straightforward explanations of why you might hurt in places or which part of your body you need to focus on depending on your main sport. For example, as a cyclist I need to focus on my calves and feet (I have plantar faciitis from tight calves) and most of all my hips and glutes to get rid of the “booty lock” that has plagued me even when I was a big runner a decade ago. Erin gives you step by step stretches and exercises to not only figure out where you might be out of balance, but also how to correct that imbalance. Balance equals performance. So go get your sport specific yoga on.
Trigger Point Foam Roller ($65): Related to the above, foam rolling will be your new best friend. The roller enables you to basically self-massage in order to release muscle tightness or trigger points (knots in your muscles). By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice.
Sleep 37.5 Sheets ($160): I sleep best in a relatively cold environment, so if I want to keep my iFit sleep score up, these 37.5 sheets help me do it. Using a combination of cotton and Cocona, the fabric actively removes excess heat and moisture vapor on-demand to maintain an optimum comfort zone, allowing you to enter deeper, longer periods of rest.
Chacos Sandals ($75-$100): Your feet spend a ton of time trapped in the hot, humid, dirty environment of your athletic shoes. So whenever you get the chance, throw on a pair of Chacos to let your feet breathe with the added support of the contoured footbed. Your feet will thank you.