Go from "hurts so good" to "feels so good" faster with these miracle workers that make post-exercise pain a bad memory
2XU Recovery Compression Tights
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Best for: All-day relief
Featuring high-tech, next-generation fabric, 2XU Recovery Compression Tights ($160; 2xu.com) apply pressure to repair muscles faster by improving blood and oxygen circulation. Independent research shows compression gear significantly reduces swelling, alleviates soreness, and helps athletes improve and maintain performance. “The trick is to wear them snug enough in order to emulate the success demonstrated in the studies,” says Jen Sinkler, a certified personal trainer. Plus, they’re discreet enough to wear under clothes and even comfortable enough to sleep in for all-night recovery aid.
EvoFit Enso Roller
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Best for: Personalized self-massage
A souped-up version of a typical foam roller, the ergonomic EvoFit Enso Roller ($89; evofitforlife.com) has eight customizable discs that arrange to fit your body’s individual shape. Set them up to effectively pinpoint any area from your glutes to your IT bands to your smallest back muscles to release tightness, break up scar tissue, and improve circulation and flexibility before or after a workout. This massage technique, called self-myofascial massage, has been shown by several recent studies to decrease muscle recovery and improve chronic performance.
Arctic Ease Instant Cold Wrap
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Best for: Swelling from sprains, muscle aches, or bruises
Meet the wonder-working Arctic Ease Instant Cold Wrap ($16; arcticeasewrap.com), a cool-to-the-touch cloth that relieves inflammation almost immediately using cold compression therapy—no need for refrigeration or messy ice packs. Simply apply the moist, antimicrobial wrap to the injured body part, and it will stay put even while you're staying active. Plus, it can be rehydrated with just a few drops of water and reused within two to three hours.
—Sponsored by Arctic Ease—
Photo: Arctic Ease
Yoga Tune Up Massage Therapy Full Body Kit
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Best for: Sore, hard-to-reach muscles
Created by fitness expert Jill Miller, the Yoga Tune Up Kit ($45; yogatuneup.com) contains two therapy balls about 2.5 inches in diameter designed to help you rub out tension. The pliable rubber material painlessly grips your skin in order to penetrate multiple layers of muscle and relieve all your sore sports. Use the two accompanying DVDs of specialized recovery routines to help you locate, strengthen, and heal your overused areas anytime your body is rebelling.
Photo: Yoga Tune Up
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Best for: Aches and stiffness
Don’t disregard this tried-and-true treatment: It works. Research suggests that magnesium and sulfate, found in the salts, can help relieve discomfort of sore muscles, aches, and pains. It even helps with bloating—an added bonus if you’re been working out hard to fit into a dress, says yoga instructor and Shape.com's wellness expert, Heidi Kristoffer. She suggests Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution ($6; drteals.com).
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Best for: Working out kinks
When a deep-tissue massage isn’t an option, Kristoffer recommends the more budget-friendly, no-need-to-book-an-appointment Thera Cane ($35; theracane.com). With six strategically placed nodes and an easy-to-use design, this deep-pressure hook-shaped stick lets you treat yourself to relief from knotted muscles anywhere on your body, even in your hard-to-reach mid-back. It’s designed to attack your body’s "trigger points" to break up tension and increase circulation, helping muscles to work more efficiently.
Photo: Thera Cane
Mission Enduracool Headband
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Best for: Cooling down after a hot workout
A lifesaver after a long run or any outdoor exercise on sweltering day, the Mission Enduracool Headband ($25; missionathletecare.com) delivers icy cool relief right when you need it. Soak the band with water (or sweat), snap it in the air, and in seconds it cools to 30 degrees below average body temperature, using the fabric’s CoolCore technology. Research has shown body cooling during intense exercise in the heat enhances athletic performance in nearly all activities, as lowering body temperature decreases thermal strain to allow more blood flow to cool working muscles instead of your skin. Added bonus: The reversible headband also fashionably keeps sweat away during your workout.
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Best for: Relief from joint pain
Arnica oil, a homeopathic remedy for muscle and joint pain made from a type of flower, is the main ingredient in Traumeel Ointment ($16; traumeel.us), an odorless white salve. According to one study, the oil will reduce pain and inflammation in your back, neck, foot, or wrist as effectively as ibuprofen gel. Massage into skin, and you’ll start "ahhing" with relief.