About Me & How I Tested the R8 by Roll Recovery:
I’m a generalist – capable of quite a few things, but an expert at nothing. In the warmer months, I run, ride (road and mountain bike), swim (pool and open water), yoga, and strength train. In winter, I add x-country and downhill skiing, and keep the riding confined to my indoor spin bike.
I’ve tested the R8 over the past year or so, but was introduced to an earlier model after one of my first marathons in 2015. With that in mind, here goes…
What is the R8?
The R8 is basically a spring-loaded, deep tissue massage roller that looks like some sort of medieval torture device. It was specifically designed to be highly mobile and utilized at home or while traveling. According to the R8’s creator’s website, “The patented technology self-adjusts for different body sizes and targets the IT-bands, quads, hamstrings, calves, shins, gluteus, arms and more. It takes the work out of rolling and is compact enough to take anywhere.”
R8 Pro – Mobility
My first exposure to the R8, or more likely the R1 as I think it was the first-generation model, was back in 2015 after I ran the Big Sur Marathon. A friend had lent it to me, swearing that it was “the best thing ever!” and literally dropped it through my car window as we were leaving town. As we drove away, she said “use it on the car ride home while Abe drives!”* So, that’s exactly what I did. As we sat in the car for well over five hours to return home, I intermittently used the roller on my legs – quads, hamstrings and calves. I was able to utilize our car time to help my recovery along rather than just sit there and get stiff and sore. My friend was right – it was great, and I promptly decided that I need one to call my own. Well, after we got home, I was quickly distracted by other things and then forgot about making the purchase, so when Tahoe Mountain Sports started carrying them this fall I think I literally jumped for joy and bought one on the spot**.
The R8 is highly mobile. There’s no way I would have been able to utilize a foam roller in the car. Similarly, the R8 can be easily packed for travel in a suitcase, duffel, carry-on, etc.
R8 Pro – “Relaxed” Rolling
I’m not sure rolling in any form can ever be considered as “relaxed”, but what I mean when I say that the R8 enables “relaxed” rolling is that the muscles being rolled are relaxed during the process. Think of this… when using a traditional foam roller on your quads for example, you typically lie your quad atop the foam roller and roll back and forth in a plank position, right? Well, I’ve tried every which way I can to truly relax my quad during this process and I just can’t. There is always some degree of muscle engagement. Same goes for pretty much every muscle group, with only a few exceptions, when using a traditional foam roller. The R8, in contrast allows you to truly relax the muscle being rolled.
The R8, is ideally used seated therefore you can relax and disengage the muscles during the rolling process. Quads, IT band, hamstrings, calves and even forearms benefit from this truly relaxed rolling process. You can access a user’s manual HERE, so I won’t go into too much detail on the actual methodology. Note that the online tutorials show mostly standing techniques. I strongly encourage you to apply the same techniques but in a seated position which allows the muscles to relax more.
Favorite R8 Rolls
My favorite rolls are those for the IT bands, quads, calves and forearms.
The IT band/quad roll allows you really get into the meat of the quad right above the knee***. This area gets particularly sore and tight from running and cycling, and I have not yet found a way to get the same impact with a traditional foam roller as I do with R8.
I love love love the R8 for my calves. Definitely watch the tutorials as you don’t want to rake the R8 rollers along your shin bone, but the R8 can get great access to the meat of your upper calf (Gastrocnemius), lower calf (Soleus) and even the muscle that runs slightly to the outside of your shin bone (the Tibialis anterior). Nothing can touch the R8 in terms of rolling out these particular muscles.
Yeah – I know it sounds weird, and it probably looks even weirder, but the R8 is awesome for the forearms. I dealt with a bit off carpal tunnel last year and loved the R8 on my forearms. Even without any issues, I just the R8 on my forearms just because. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but it’s one of those muscle groups that you never really think to rollout and using the R8 feels wonderful!
R8 Reality Check
As much as I love this thing, it really isn’t going to replace a foam roller. I definitely don’t get the same benefits with the R8 for my hamstrings as I do with a foam roller for example, and I can’t fathom how one would use the R8 to roll out the upper back or pectoral muscles, but hey get creative – give it a shot!
The Bottom Line
The R8 makes slacking off on rolling that much more difficult. You can literally use it in bed at night if you forget to rollout earlier in the day, so what’s the excuse now? Anyway, I love the R8 and it makes a very worthy arrow to the recovery quiver.
*Do not use the R8 while driving. While the R8 is highly mobile, self-massage while driving can endanger yourself and others.
**The $130 price tag is well worth it!
*** or the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and the vastus intermedius for the scientifically inclined
Stop by Tahoe Mountain Sports to try out the R8 roller today!
Mone Haen is a Truckee-based ultrarunner and regular TMS contributor