Ask A Gear Guru – How Do I Build The Perfect Recovery Room?

Sure, we all like to brag about our grisly “pain caves” and fear-inducing “she sheds,” but as triathletes who (probably) train too much, sometimes we need a safe space to recover.

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We’re triathletes. We laugh in the face of pain and suffering—in fact we look for it more often than not. If we could illustrate triathletes’ not-so-complex relationship with pain in a made-for-TV scene, we would be the ones walking up to the huge bearded guy (pain, in this metaphor) at the dive bar and pouring a drink over his head. We’d pour the whole thing, slowly. And there would be eye contact; oh yes, there would be eye contact. But just like in that overly dramatic example, there are repercussions. Sure, sometimes we duck pain’s wild haymaker and counter back with a killer uppercut, but other times pain lands that hairy-knuckled fist right in our outstretched jaw.

If you’re still with me (what, I’ve been watching a lot of action movies, ok?), it makes sense that we need a little bit of recovery time from all that training we like to inflict upon ourselves. If we want the training to be Training (with a capital ‘t’) and not just working out, we need to rest and let the wounds heal. If we want to get fast then faster, rather than tired and tired-er, we need to repair. If we’re so proud of our pain caves and she sheds where we torture ourselves, then maybe we need a special place to recover as well. (No, I did not come up with anything as catchy as “pain cave” or “she shed,” but I did brainstorm the unfortunate term “womb room,” so let’s just leave that alone…forever.)

And even if you don’t want to build a full-blown, dedicated “depressurization station” (sorry), there’s something to be said for the importance of recovery and at least knowing the best tools to help you wind down, relax, meditate, stretch, and do some active body care. But because we’re triathletes who are super good at getting punched in the training face, but not so awesome at recovery, we tapped Yoga Journal’s assistant editor and resident gear guru Kyle Houseworth to help us with a few picks on how to create a cool space to rest up and repair. Read on for his recs:

Related: 5 Yoga Poses for Triathletes

Manduka Pro Yoga Mat


No, $120 isn’t exactly a bargain bin yoga mat, but if you’re going to be as serious about your recovery—whether that’s yoga, stretching, or active bodywork—as you are about your training, you should spend a little extra dough. Houseworth said this is the gold-standard mat for yogis of any level, and its 6mm of closed-cell cushioning won’t allow sweat to seep in. This is good news for bony little triathletes, triathletes who aren’t super flexible, and those looking for a slower, more restorative yoga session.

Bodynova ROUND Yoga Bolster


Since we’re talking mostly about recovery yoga and not the kind that gives you a killer workout, Houseworth recommends a bolster. These cushions are better than your couch pillow and let you rest your back, neck, hips, and more so you can fall deeper into your sleep…er, your stretch.

2nd Wind Twin Arrow Cork Yoga Block


While Houseworth says nearly any cork block will do, he chooses cork over foam any day. Cork is sturdy enough to supply a stable base—even to the wobbliest of triathletes—while foam can bend and give. Enviro-note: Cork is also eco friendly, so you’ll be inviting positive vibes from all angles while you push deeper into your reclining hero pose.

Headspace App

Starting at $6/mo.,

No recovery space is complete without the relaxing sounds to help you unwind and focus on the calm task at hand. Houseworth loves the huge library of guided meditations (think: going to sleep, getting a mental refresh, etc.), but if meditation isn’t your bag, Headspace also has soundscapes that will help you relax as you put in the recuperation work.

Vitruvi Stone Diffuser


This diffuser is a huge favorite over at the Yoga Journal offices, as they’re (calmly) crazy for the sleek design, the gentle glow, and the fact that it runs for hours on end. Houseworth recommends the lavender essential oils for sleep and relaxation and the ylang ylang or eucalyptus for a more uplifting-but-calming vibe. Bonus: Fierce “womb room” decorators rejoice, as it comes in eight different colors.

Roll Recovery R4


Here, the Yoga Journal and Triathlete teams are in perfect harmony: Rolling out is key to a limber body, and a recovery space is no place for a loud, thumping percussive massager. We also both agree on this technical roller from Roll Recovery that boasts specialized contours and textures for different parts of the body.

BioLite AlpenGlow 500


This is a pick solely from the Triathlete offices, but the five-mode AlpenGlow 500 is a camping lantern that doubles as a party light and triples as a way to set a relaxing mood in your relaxing room. We like the candle flicker function as well as the dimmable warm light mode for stretching and/or meditating at home, but you can also take this 500 lumen lantern with you on the road—either camping or in a race hotel. Bonus: It also acts as a 6400mAh-capacity USB device charger.

Need more gear recs? Get expert tips on everything from socks to trail shoes to indoor cycling fans from our “Ask A Gear Guru” archives.

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