For anyone who has ever lifted heavy, run long, or returned after a long layoff, aching arms and tender thighs are all too familiar. But they are actually good things. “Muscle soreness is a sign that your muscles are repairing themselves after a challenging activity,” says Snehal Patel, P.T., a clinical supervisor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The problem is that soreness not only hurts, but also limits your ability to get back at it the next day. That’s where active recovery comes in. “Sitting around after a big workout can make you even more sore,” Patel says. “Yet focusing on recovery helps speed up healing so you can be ready to go again.”

But recovery can also extend the quality of your fitness program. “Active recovery helps you get to your next workout faster,” says Christi Marraccini, training manager for fitness studio Tone House in New York. “It also helps preserve muscles and reduces your risk of injury.” Lately, a new generation of tools backed by research studies are drawing attention to help boost the recovery process. Here’s what can help you get to full strength.