Rachel Brumfield can be seen racing anything from the Resolution Run to Eleven Miles to Paradise, but also likes to explore and spends time in the mountains during the summer. You can follow her adventures on instagram @rachbrums. As a 2017/2018 RErun she tested the Orb recovery tool and gave us her thoughts.
As someone who has just recently begun using a foam roller, I was a little skeptical of what added value the Orb would bring. But, I’m lucky I was testing the Orb this month – because it really came in handy.
I’ve embarked on the Runner’s World Run Streak – running at least one mile per day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Sounds simple, right? But I never took into account how I bank on that day or two off each week. Whether it’s a schedule that’s filling too fast or weary legs – I’ve found the streak to be just what it’s intended to be: a little holiday-themed challenge.
One day early on, I was coming off a few harder days of running and my hamstrings had really locked up. Every step was painful, but I could tell it was just a hamstring that refused to turn off. I was ready to give the hammy a rest, but could not give up the streak (especially since I’d committed to do it with a few friends!). Foam rolling wasn’t cutting it, so I tested the powers of the Orb.
And, it actually worked! I sat on a chair, using the Orb as I often do a lacrosse ball: placing the ball under a tight spot on my hamstring and slowly raising and straightening, then bending my leg. Every minute or so, I moved the ball to another spot on the tight part of my hamstring. Then I rolled along the entire muscle, pausing on spots that still felt tight. After about 20 minutes, the muscle was loose enough to run a mile without pain.
With that uplifting anecdote in mind, you may be wondering what is the Orb and what makes it so different from a foam roller? “I foam roll all the time,” you might say – “Why would I need a little massage ball?” Here’s what I know:
How is the Orb different from a foam roller?
For starters, it’s a ball. It’s about 4.5 inches in diameter and covered in a bumpy texture. Made out of a dense foam, it’s firm but has just enough give to keep the pain level to a “good hurt.” I’d say it’s more intense than a foam roller, as the pressure is centralized rather than spread out over a larger area.
It differs from a lacrosse or tennis ball in that it’s slightly larger and is less painful to roll across very tight/angry muscles. Similar to a foam roller, it provides necessary myofascial release – but the Orb allows for multi-directional rolling. (With a foam roller you have to re-position the roller and your body. With the Orb, you can simply roll over to a new spot).
What are the Orb’s special powers?
The Orb sounds to me like some sort of powerful weapon out of a sci-fi movie, not a running tool. And for runners, it kind of is a powerful weapon against tricky tight muscles.
One of my favorite features is that it’s very packable. While a foam roller is hard to stick in the corner of a bag, the Orb tucks easily into a carry-on or the bottom of a gym bag.
Also, it’s really great for getting those tricky problem spots – namely the IT band, hamstrings, calves and quads. I use it on my hamstrings and calves frequently with consistent success.
Is it worth it?
A month ago I would have told you no, just stick with the foam roller you already have. But since the hamstring incident, I definitely see an added benefit. Plus, it’s very reasonably priced – about $25 for the “extreme” model – so it’s worth it even if just as a travel-sized option for the new year.