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5 tools that elite athletes use for performance and recovery

We want to look like star athletes, and maybe even achieve some of their levels of fitness. Here are five tools they use that you should too

Elite athletes use these tools for better performance and recovery.
Elite athletes use these tools for better performance and recovery. (AFP)

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The performance and lifestyle of elite athletes has always fascinated the general public. This fascination ensures that even if we can’t emulate their sporting prowess, we certainly try to get their physiques. This has become easier now, since we have access to information on their training regimen, as well as the specific tools and gadgets that they use.

These gadgets have also become more accessible to the general public, recreational athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Here are five common tools that elite athletes use for their fitness as well as for their recovery processes. These are readily available—though, in some cases, quite expensive—so you can buy them and use for your own fitness and recovery needs.

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Ice baths and Cryotherapy chambers: For most of us these might be a bit too cold handle but they are excellent for recovering from a rigorous game or fitness routine. Most athletes soak themselves in an ice bath for a few minutes after a game as it aids in recovery. Former Real Madrid and Spain striker Raul had famously installed a cryo-chamber in his home during his playing days to help him recover quickly. The lower temperatures in the ice bath and cryo-chamber reduce swelling and muscle damage from exercise and sport. A lot of high-end gyms and spas have an ice bath facility. You could also mimic an ice bath at home by filling up a tub or drum with ice and water and immersing yourself in it for a couple of minutes or so. However, if you aren’t used to an ice bath, consult a doctor before doing so.    

Whoop trackers: There are the smart watches and activity trackers from the likes of Apple, Garmin and Fitbit, and then there is Whoop. This is the most advanced tracker out there today. It has no gimmicks like a touch screen, GPS, step counter, smart notifications or the ability to make or receive phone calls. In fact it has no screen at all. It is a rectangular block that can be worn around your wrist, ankle or attached a vest and only tracks heart strain, recovery and sleep. All this data, and there is a lot of it, is accessible through an app. All three are crucial for professional athletes and a growing number of weekend warriors and fitness enthusiasts who want to be “different” are turning to this. While you have to pay nothing for the device itself, you need to subscribe to it and that’s what makes Whoop expensive. Basketball stars Lebron James and Kevin Duran, golfer Rory McIlroy and a host of other top stars are among those who use or have used the Whoop tracker.    

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STATSports trackers: Have you ever wondered what is that little bump that you can often see on the back of footballers?  And why do so many footballers wear a short, strappy, vest under their jerseys? That small bump, more often than not, is a STATSports tracker and the vest is worn underneath the jersey to hold the tracker in place while players are in action. These trackers are used by footballers in most top leagues, including the Indian Super League (ISL). This Fifa approved device captures total distance covered, maximum speeds achieved, high speed running, intensity and strain levels, among other metrics. To give you all that info, the tracker calculates over 4.5 million data points during a typical 60-minute session. This data is gold for any analyst and fitness coach looking to improve that little bit more with every passing game.

Air compression recovery systems: This equipment is a vital part of most elite athletes’ pre-match recovery regimen. Plenty of endurance athletes and those who follow CrossFit-style functional fitness routines are also starting to use these air compression recovery systems. The two most popular and competent systems on the market today are Hyperice’s Normatech recovery system and Therabody’s RecoveryAir. These systems use differential air pressure to deliver compression therapy which improves blood flow to tired muscles, thereby reducing fatigue and removing lactic acid. You can adjust the pressure as per your tolerance and requirements. They are also an excellent substitute for a relaxing foot massage and can actually help you fall asleep faster.        

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Percussion massage guns: These were first used in the recovery and rehab departments of elite sports teams and then became so popular that the market is flooded with replicas at all kinds of price points. However, these remain popular recovery tools among professional sportspeople, and the two best percussion massage guns out there are the Hypervolt (promoted by Virat Kohli) and Theragun (promoted by Cristiano Ronaldo). There are multiple sizes and versions of both brands readily available. The guns come with various attachments and can be used to deliver a soothing massage on tight and overused muscles as well as breakdown knots at various trigger points like glutes, hip flexors, calves and back. These devices are best used post a workout or whenever you are feeling any kind of tightness or stiffness in your muscles.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.   

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