The Pre-Run, Workout, and Recovery Tools I Use Most

There’s never been a better time to have at at-home “gym.” Even as public facilities start to reopen, it’s nice to have some basic equipment to yourself–no driving, waiting, or worrying involved. It’s also a one-time investment that, all in, shouldn’t cost more than a month or two of a typical gym membership.

Final selling point: Besides the equipment required for my twice-a-week heavy lifting sessions, all but a few of the pre-run, workout, and recovery tools I use on a regular basis fit inside a wicker basket. A dedicated workout space is nice, but definitely not required.

Here are the 13 tools that I rely on most:

Mini Resistance Bands– I love these little guys for pre-run activation (monster walks!) and post-run glute and hip work (clams, butt bridges, etc.). I’ve had a set for a few years, but almost exclusively use the yellow and green ones (least resistance), since I see them as a muscle firing aid rather than tools for big strength gains.

Lacrosse Ball– The only remnant of my few seasons as a lacrosse player, this ball comes in handy every morning when I’m getting my body ready to run. I mostly use it on my calves and hip/glute area, which seem to always be tight and which respond well to a little digging—ball on the ground, body weight on top, legs working through a range of motion.

Stretch Strap– I use this for ankle mobility before every single run, as well as for active isolated stretching most nights before bed. For true mobility, it’s important that this band doesn’t stretch.

Long Foam Roller– By far the biggest item on this list, my long foam roller serves 2 main purposes: loosening up my back before runs (with some pretty aggressive torso swivels/arm swings), and realigning my body at night (in T position, with my torso parallel and right on top of roller).

R4 Roller– I love rolling out my upper back on this hard roller every morning, and typically produce a few satisfying cracks. (I start rolling with my arms by my sides and then bring them behind my head for some intense-in-a-good-way feels.) The two notches in the middle also serve a similar purpose to the peanut roller I used to use separately.

Swiss Ball– There is so much you can do with a Swiss Ball, especially when it comes to fun core variations. (My sister recently taught me that these are also recommended for pregnant women, so there’s that too!) Just be sure you buy the right size, as some are gigantic and some are better suited to 5-feeters like myself.

Power Band– I use a long, thick band like this one a couple days a week for added resistance on body squats, side lunges, Bulgarian lunges, and such, usually tied to something heavy (like a sturdy post or furniture leg).

Red TheraBand– The resistance level of this band doesn’t matter so much, as long as it stretches and is at least as long as your wingspan. I use mine pre-run to open up my back (banded pull-aparts and rainbows) and work on ankle mobility (inversion and eversion).

10-lb. Medicine Ball– If you’re going to have one medicine ball on hand, I think a 10-pound one is a good choice. It’s a nice weight for core and arm work and can work in a pinch as a back roller too.

Ab Roller Wheel– I’ve been surprised at how often my husband and I use our little ab roller. It seems gimmicky, but actually requires some real arm and core strength to control. We mostly use this between reps while lifting.

MOBO Board– While trying to kick a little ankle/Achilles/foot flare-up this spring, I jumped on the MOBO bandwagon, and have been really impressed with it so far. It’s perfect for work on stability, coordination, and foot/ankle strength, and is endlessly versatile as far as what you can do on it.

R8 Roller– The OG of Roll Recovery products, the R8 irons out kinks in my muscles like nothing else can. While it’s designed to work on almost any body part, I find it especially effective on my chronically tight calves. I use this at least once a day, and sometimes several more.

Pull-Up Bar– I think that arm strength is underrated among runners, and I’ve always thought pull-ups are one of the best bangs for your buck. We have a bar that fits in a door frame and offers several grip options, which I try to rotate through.


For more info on some of these products and the way I use them, check out this post on my standard pre- and post-run routines.

Also, know that you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy all of these things if you don’t have them. I wrote a Runner’s World piece on being creative with your recovery tools, many of which you may already have at home without even realizing it. The same idea applies to all workout equipment, as far as I’m concerned.

Happy Training!

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