The Firefly Recovery Device Review

An invisible, yet relentless reflex hammer appears to be beating out a rhythm on my knees. Both legs are twitching, one then the other and back.

Firefly Recovery Device

I’m trialling a new running gadget, the Firefly Recovery Device which is designed to reduce lower leg DOMS in athletes and weekend warriors alike.

My weekend marathon across the London Underground network was tough on my legs. By the time I got home I was barely able to support my own weight and it was clear I’d be suffering for days on wobbly pins.

Time to unpack the Firefly Recovery Device.

The Firefly recovery device comes packed and sealed like a clinical instrument. Stripping open the foil pouch reveals a small strap with a raised button, presumably hiding a tiny battery. You peel off the plastic backing (make sure you keep this safe) and then apply the impressively sticky strap underneath your knee cap. There are detailed fitting instructions in the pack but I found the online video the most useful in ensuring optimum placement.

You are aiming to get the line of arrows over the head of your fibula, which is a knobble on the outside of your lower leg, just below the knee. I think the aim is to apply optimum neuromuscular electrical stimulation to the peroneal nerve, so if you don’t get the placement quite right you won’t feel the same kick. You can shift the device around a bit though so it’s not vital to get it right first time. The adhesive is strong and I’ve been whipping the device on and off quite a number of times so far.

You then press the button to switch the device on and it starts pulsing, you have a number of settings which you cycle through by pressing the button again and each increment increases the intensity. The effect isn’t painful but it is odd. I first noticed a slight twitching in one of the tendons of my right foot but as I moved the strap around and then increased the setting I got a very noticeable spasm in my leg. The video above illustrates the twitching I achieved – I have got my legs raised to accentuate the effect.

The Firefly is said to improve an athlete’s recovery by stimulating the muscles in the lower leg which increases blood flow and therefore accelerates the removal of metabolic waste products. It is claimed that it can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) within 24 hours.

I didn’t conduct a particularly scientific test and chose not to leave one leg as an untreated control. As a result the outcome is highly subjective but I’m still going to claim it as positive. I wore the device for about 20 mins on two separate occasions. I was banned from wearing it in bed due to the lower limb convulsions but even my relatively brief adherence to the device resulted in noticeably less stiffness and I could just about summon up the energy for a 20 minute jog the next day. That was much better than I expected.

Although the Firefly is designed to be used to promote recovery after vigorous activity, I plan to use it for some mid-event recuperation. In less than two weeks time I’ll be embarking on a 100k hike – The London2Brighton Challenge. At the mid-way point there is a planned break for food and blister treatment but I will also be whipping out my Firefly devices to see if they can encourage my legs to go a bit further this year.

Although the Firefly is officially marketed as a disposable device it’s battery life is quoted to be 30 hours which will see me through quite a number of recovery sessions. The adhesive is quite capable of coping with a number of re-applications (especially if you remembered to keep the plastic backing) but you can also buy a Velcro knee strap which keeps the device very secure.

At £29 for a pair it is fairly pricey and I probably wouldn’t have considered it if it had been a once only unit. As it is I’m very excited to see how it fairs on the big day, if it can re-invigorate my legs after 50k I’ll be ordering a years supply.

Other notable reviews of the Firefly Device

Firefly Recovery Device

A Deep Need for Heat

Deep Heat PatchDeep Heat sent me a selection of warming (and cooling) patches to trial and this weekend resulted in more than enough sore muscles to ease.

My motivation has a tendency to ebb more than it flows and so when I catch even the tiniest wave of sporting enthusiasm I’ve been doing my best to ride it. This weekend it meant cramming a weeks worth of exercise into 1 day.

Saturday started with BMF, so we were in the park by 9:30 shivering in a huddle as our Sergeant Major determined exactly how he was going to go about rubbing our faces in the mud. He opted for plank splits and monkey crawling up a sodden bank, interspersed with shuttle runs and partner shoving.

After a quick break for brunch I was off again for my final session of Olympic Weightlifting, wondering how the earlier military battering was going to interfere with my weighted squat performance.

I was noticeably wobbly from the start but after 90 mins of snatch and clean training I was ready to plonk myself on the floor and await a teleportation device. Unfortunately I still have a couple of 100k walks to train for so I had to forego any offers of space/time travel and actually walk home.

What a drag. Have I mentioned before that I find walking so incredibly tedious and mind numbingly dull? If it wasn’t for the invention of audiobooks I’d stand no chance. This week I’m listening to The Farm by Tom Rob Smith and it is sufficiently gripping to offer some pleasure with each passing mile.

Needless to say, when I woke up on Sunday there was no part of me that wouldn’t welcome the application of a Deep Heat patch. I’m hoping to keep a couple spare as light relief on the London2Brighton walk so wasn’t prepared to blow them all this weekend. I therefore wondered around for a couple of hours trying to decide which bit of me hurt the most.

I decided my deltoids were in greatest need and attempted to apply a medium patch. It didn’t want to curl very neatly around my shoulder so I whipped it off and slapped it on my ample quad. The off and on again application won’t have helped its adhesive powers but it seemed fairly secure despite a little peeling at the edges.

I then went about my day, hobbling and moaning every time I moved, making sure everyone was aware that I’d had a pretty tough weekend. Despite the melodrama I also managed a few hours on the allotment, performing light planting and sowing duties and the patch remained intact. In fact the patch stayed on for a good 10 hours, delivering a gentle warmth until I went out for a very unsuccessful jog/walk/crawl around the block. At the 2k mark I could feel the patch slipping as all the warm beads sunk downwards. At 2.5k the patch shot out from the bottom of my trousers and I had to retrieve it from the gutter.

I think thats a pretty successful test. The pack claims 8 hours of warmth and my patch remained in-situ for around 10 hours and was still giving off a faint afterglow even from the gutter. It was a bonus that I didn’t have to rip it and half a layer of epidermis from my thigh.

Product details:

Deep Heat Patch

Deep Heat Patch provides effective, warming relief from muscular aches and pains, joint stiffness and backaches for up to eight hours. Each patch contains iron and activated charcoal. When the pack is opened, the air activates a heat generating reaction that produces a warming effect when the patch is applied to the skin. This local, superficial heat improves the circulation to the muscles, so reducing pain and stiffness. Each Deep Heat Patch is active for up to eight hours after the pack is opened, providing long-lasting, deep-relieving warmth. With no smell and no associated grease, the self-adhesive patches are easy to apply and convenient for use during the day.

RRP for a single Deep Heat Heat Patch is £2.07; Boots.com
RRP for a pack of four patches is £6.25. Boots.com

The Runner’s Embrocation

I’ve done the Great North Run enough times to be able to identify the emergence of a pre-race ritual involving bananas, ibuprofen, Deep Heat and Red Bull.

These aren’t the ingredients to a pre-race smoothie so please don’t feel tempted to whizz the ingredients together in a blender.

Deep HeatFor some reason I don’t repeat the routine at any other race, the only common feature across races appears to be the Red Bull because I long for the wings that may offer release from my mid-point misery. In contrast the Deep Heat and Ibuprofen appear to be saved for GNR alone. I imagine thats because Dan is in charge of the medical side of running and he’s always at the start of GNR. He pulls out the Deep Heat just before the enforced warm up session and we can avoid the overly jolly group jumping jacks while we massage in the warming cream.

I’ve just been sent a range of Deep Heat embrocations to try out so I can now dabble with warming, cooling and soothing potions to my hearts content. I am free to experiment with pre and post training applications and may spend the next few months smelling like I have intractable sciatica.

Last night I applied Deep Relief, the menthol and ibuprofen infused gel to my aching knees, this morning I have Deep Heat smothering my hamstrings as I’ve tightened up something chronic after the intense session at The Running School last week. When I’ve finished I’ll be overlaying with Deep Freeze and then pop my feet up for a well earned rest.

Three unguents in one day may be overkill but my muscles are going to be grateful for the new experiment.

The Stick and Other Methods of Torture

I’ve been using The Stick ever since I suffered with a painful muscular injury to my hamstrings.

It has a very simple design – a slightly flexible plastic stick around which a set of plastic spindles can independently rotate. It is these spindles that work on your muscles to ease out knots and release tension.

It’s extremely effective and a superb substitute for daily massages for those not lucky enough to have a full time masseuse on hand.

You can use it almost anywhere on the body but I have found it particularly useful for the larger muscle groups such as the calves, quads, hamstrings and buttocks. It can be incredibly painful when you first start using it but you can control the pressure and it’s amazing how quickly the muscles loosen up and stop screaming.

I came across the Posture Pro and Footeez at the The Running School, I was just preparing for a high intensity blast on the treadmill but I was suffering from a niggling cramp in my calf. I was quite concerned that I was going to do myself a mischief so the running instructor had me sitting on the floor with the blue nobbly gadget under my calf. The trick is to roll back and forth using your body weight to apply quite forceful pressure to a defined spot. I found it to have a miraculous effect, clearing the knot within a minute or so. I bought these two the very same day.

I find that The Stick is ideal for routine treatment as a preventative measure while it is worth rolling out the Posture Pro when rapid remedial action is required. The Posture Pro does take a little bit of getting used to and is tricky to use without giving you carpet burns on your buttocks as you roll to and fro.

The Footeez is similar to the Posture Pro, another knobbly hard plastic cyclinder but is specially shaped for foot rolling. I use the two interchangeably to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis. The podiatrist recommended the use of a golf ball for focused massage of the PF which is a far more economical method but I find it quite irritating. It’s hard to apply sufficient pressure to the heel region without the golf ball shooting out from under your foot and scuttling across the room. I soon get bored of retrieving it.

Tan Tendon Tautener

Yesterdays ride was only supposed to be stage 1 of the workout, my intention was to get home, bundle the bike in the shed and get the running shoes on for a brick session. The idea is that if you regularly run directly after a long ride you get used to the peculiar feeling of running on rubber legs.

Unfortunately I couldn’t be bothered for anything that sounded as painful as a brick, I wanted a warm bath. Good news, is that despite a 24 hr transition my legs still feel like jelly and I reckon I could get exactly the same benefit by going out for a run now. It’ll also make me feel better about going to the pub this evening.

I haven’t mentioned running (in an active sense) for a while but I have still be getting out there. I’ve dropped the mileage a bit as I have patellar tendonitis and all advice points to rest and inactivity. It actually seems to hurt more at rest than it does when I’m running, (perhaps because I find it hard to dig my thumb under my knee cap and run at the same time) so I’m going to quit the rest. If I stick to flat runs and keep a steady stride, I don’t even notice a problem, admittedly I need a big stick to help me get up the steps to cross to the other side of the Thames but thats just working my upper body strength.

Cho-Pat

Today will be my first run, sporting the new Cho-Pat knee strap. What a lovely fashion accessory this is, should blend wonderfully with the tan tights I wear for every run.

Now I have it sitting in front of me it looks like a big old con and I can’t understand how I duped myself into it. Still, I suppose I should give it a go. I have to tighten it around my knee, and it will in return provide a bit of tension across my tendon, supposedly protecting it from further damage. Not sure how tight, I’m working backwards from blue toes till I find the optimum effect.