Coaches and physical therapists call it the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression, elevation. After a workout, runners and cyclists who want to reduce muscle injury and fatigue, speed recovery and safely get faster and stronger should take it easy the day after a hard workout, ice to reduce inflammation, use rollers and tight clothing to squeeze out exercise waste products and excess fluids, and raise the legs (from a supine position) to prevent blood pooling. That's why old standbys like ice bags and foam rollers are essential for endurance athletes, and why the devices here, which often combine several RICE functions at once, are worth a look.
HyperIce — Knee: The portable ice compression device includes a Velcro-closure neoprene compression sleeve that straps down an ice bag. The bag has an air-removal valve that, when pressed, sucks the ice tightly against the skin.
Likes: Highly effective, comfortable and convenient. Simultaneously delivers cold therapy and compression. The ice pack is targeted on the knee and holds tightly in place even while you walk around. Very simple setup: Fill the rubber bag with ice, position the plastic neck through the gap in the neoprene sleeve, tighten the cap, strap it in place with the neoprene and press the valve on the cap to release air. The ice forms a custom-fitted cap around the knee. Shoulder, back and multi-purpose systems are also available.
Price: $100. hyperice.com
Triggerpoint Cold Roller: An 11-inch stainless steel roller with a gel core and polyurethane wheels that, when chilled in the freezer, becomes as cold as ice. This allows you to combine the benefits of icing and body-weight pressure massage.
Likes: Simple and effective. Doing a back-and-forth deep-tissue ice massage on your calves, quads, hamstrings and lats quickly and deeply drills the cold into the muscles. The arc shape of the roll bar lets you dig into a spot and easily shift emphasis. The compact size travels well (if you can find a place to freeze it). I was surprised to find that the Cold Roller was still icy-cold three hours after I took it out of the freezer.
Price: $79. tptherapy.com
RumbleRoller Beastie Bar: This self-massage and compression bar takes the bumpy-surface concept of the popular RumbleRoller foam roller to a new level. The bar shish-kabobs twin 2 1/2-inch Beastie Balls, each studded with 31 1/2-inch-tall rubber bumps. They roll across your muscles to provide a deep-tissue massage area 5 inches wide. Included are two end-stands for mounting the bar on a wall for standing back massages
Likes: As you roll the Beasties over your calves and thighs, the bumps immediately dig in, like 62 tiny, sharp thumbs of a massage therapist. It feels great. The bumps stimulate and stretch several layers of muscle and tendon, working quickly to iron the kinks out and enhance circulation. There are two levels of Beastie Ball: X-Firm or Original, which has softer bumps.
Dislikes: You are stuck with the wall-mounts stands, a $20 value, even if you won't use them.
Price: $59.95. rumbleroller.com
Marc Pro: The electro-stimulation device transmits adjustable-intensity electrical pulses via 2-inch-diameter self-adhesive electrode patches. Two dials control the intensity of the pulses. Twenty-four electrodes are included per set.
Likes: Simple to use: Charge the unit, plug in the two cables and affix four electrode patches. Dial up the intensity (0.0 to 9.0) as high as you can comfortably manage. For me, over 4.0 became stinging and uncomfortable. A booklet illustrates 19 different electrode placements.
Dislikes: Although these type of products have been used for many decades by athletes in search of a performance edge and fast rehab, as the first line on Page 2 of the MarcPro manual states, "The long-term effects of prolonged electrical stimulation are unknown." The MarcPro is similar to electro-stimulation products from Complex (reviewed in this column in 2011), which has three models ranging from $399 to $849 and can power 10 electrodes at once, compared with the MarcPro's 4.
Price: $650. marcpro.com