It’s Thanksgiving time. Which means some of you are going to be throwing on a pair of cleats daring to run the same way you did when you were fifteen. Inevitably, most of us (myself included) will be in a lot of pain over the next week or so, and it’s my gift to you to figure out how best to mitigate that pain.
Every Thanksgiving, my family gathers in Sag Harbor on a three-acre property to play football. It’s a tradition that has been going on for over 50 years, the history of which I’ve written about extensively here and here. Since I was young, my dad, my brother, and I would arrive at the field an hour before kickoff. We’d put on our cleats, run a few fake routes, toss the football back and forth, and then start the first game.
Nowadays, the pre-kickoff ritual looks more like a physical therapist’s treatment room. There are resistance bands, massage balls, foam rollers, CBD creams, therapeutic kinesiology tapes, and more. As my cousins and I roll past our athletic-filled twenties into our thirties and forties, the game has become more about injury prevention than anything.
Given the orthopedic past of my family, it is no wonder I have collected a myriad number of gadgets and gizmos to help build my balance, strengthen tiny muscle groups, break down scar tissue, and rehabilitate weaker or compromised parts of my always-ailing body. I’m constantly tinkering and Experimenting with Weird but Effective Methods for Health & Fitness.
I come prepared. And though a tiny corner of my apartment has now become a body-hackers dream, I stand by each and every one of these tools to help with pre and post-Thanksgiving football soreness.
Luckily, I don’t suffer too much from back pain, but when I do, laying on this acupressure mat for 10-15 minutes helps soothe the pain by at least 50%. The “needles” are akin to the plastic bottoms of golf shoes so they aren’t very painful. It hurts for the first minute or so and then it’s fine. I prefer to put my feet up on a couch, lay down, and either read a book on my Kindle or simply close my eyes for 10 minutes. I have also heard it is good to stand on the mat with your bare feet to relieve pressure on your feet and headaches.
Great for trigger points in your neck or upper back. I love the fact that you can control the pressure directly and use it to simply press into one spot in particular or really gnash at something. I don’t use this as often as some of the other tools, but it’s there when I really need it.
The key here is heat. The other key is minimal work. You simply strap your arms in, turn it on and the machine does the rest. I’ll throw this on my back or on the tops of my legs when I’m sitting back and watching a movie on Netflix. It doesn’t get any better.
My old lacrosse bag is now used for shitty lacrosse balls I can repurpose as therapeutic devices for trigger-point release. I’ve since graduated to the more painful golf ball, but I love rolling out the bottoms of my feet on a golf ball to get all the knots and tightness out in the morning and before I go to bed. I find the lacrosse ball most useful for my chest and pec muscles when facing against a wall. It’s painful, but it gets the job done.
Admittedly, this is one of my weirdest body hack tools. I follow a lot of accounts on Instagram that promote mobility through a combination of yoga, stretching, and dynamic movements. I noticed that several of the people who practice those methods were wearing things on their toes, similar to what girls have after a pedicure. I did some research on Yoga Toes and slowly started hearing about the benefits on multiple podcasts I listen to. My feet are extremely narrow and delicate. It’s always been a bit of a weakness point for me. I once had to sit out of a football game in high school because my blisters were so bad. Yoga Toes are meant to not only spread out your toes to a more natural shape but also to prevent things like bunions.
I wear them twice a day for about 15-20 minutes apiece, mainly to realign the joints in my toes and make the neglected tissue in my feet more supple and strong.
I use this foam roller every single day, whether it’s to loosen my muscles before a workout or run, or to combat sore muscles before I go to bed. This has been one of the most valuable items in my everyday life. I have a 36-inch and 18-inch version, but I think the 18-inch is much better in terms of saving space and traveling. It also doubles as a foot prop when I’m working at my standing desk.
I wasn’t big on these until recently. The new gym I started going to makes us do a ton of warm-up work using resistance bands and I have grown to love it. I wish I started using them sooner because they are a great double whammy for both warming up the muscles before a workout and strengthening areas of weakness around particular joints – for me, it’s my knees, ankles, and shoulders.
What can I say that hasn’t been said? I’m a fiend for trigger-point release. The Theragun is probably the most fun of the tools since it’s loud, it’s exciting, and it doesn’t take much to sort out the aches and pains in all kinds of places.
Last but not least is my favorite new exercise tool: the Slant Board.
After two knee surgeries, my knee didn’t quite feel right. I stumbled upon @athletictruthgroup and @kneesovertoesguy on Instagram and my life changed. The three simple exercises of slant-board step downs (shown above), tibialis raises, and KOT calve raises have helped alleviate 90% of my knee pain. I can now run and work out pain-free after only a few months of following the exercises posted daily on those Instagram accounts. For anyone with knee or ankle pain, I can’t recommend it enough.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more gadgets and gizmos.
Happy Thanksgiving, stay safe and injury-free out there!